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Province of BC
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PURPOSE AND EFFECT:
COVID-19 RELATED MEASURES ACT
LIMITATION PERIODS
AMENDED DECEMBER 21, 2020

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Key Messages
  • Mandatory limitation periods and other mandatory time periods established in BC laws for commencing a civil or family action, proceeding, claim, or appeal in BC courts were first suspended on March 26, 2020.
  • Up to this point, that suspension has been linked to the duration of the state of emergency declared under the Emergency Program Act (EPA).
  • On December 21, 2020, Order in Council 655/2020 (OIC 655/2020) was made under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act (CRMA). OIC 655/2020 has de-linked the suspension of limitation periods from the duration of the state of provincial emergency.
  • Per OIC 655/2020, the suspension will end on March 25, 2021. This will result in the suspension having been in place for exactly one year.
Background

On July 8, 2020, the Legislature passed the CRMA. Part 2 of the CRMA (COVID-19 Provisions) provides a temporary legal framework to enact and extend the duration of ministerial orders and regulations made under the EPA in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CRMA came into force on July 10, 2020.

Two ministerial orders and one regulation have been made under the EPA in relation to the suspension of limitation periods during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those instruments were each, at different times, added to the schedules to the CRMA to allow their effects to endure beyond the end of the state of emergency that was declared on March 18, 2020 under the EPA.

On December 21, 2020, OIC 655/2020 was made. This OIC provides that, effective March 25, 2021, the suspension of every mandatory limitation period and any other mandatory time period that is established in an enactment or law of British Columbia within which a civil or family action, proceeding, claim, or appeal must be commenced in the Provincial Court, Supreme Court, or Court of Appeal will end. The suspension of these mandatory limitation periods and other mandatory time periods is no longer linked to the duration of the state of emergency declared under the EPA and will instead end on March 25, 2021.

However, no change has been made to the repeal timing for the temporary discretionary power provided to a person, tribunal, or other body that has a statutory power of decision to waive, suspend, or extend a mandatory time period relating to the exercise of that power.1 That power does not apply to a court, but only to tribunals and other statutory decision makers. That power is set to remain in force until 90 day after the end of the state of emergency in recognition of the fact that there is such a diversity of statutory decision-making processes across tribunals and governments that discretion is required to allow this wide range of decision-makers to adapt to their unique circumstances.

The balance of this document provides background information regarding the two ministerial orders and one regulation made under the EPA in relation to limitation periods, as well as OIC 655/2020.

This document was developed by the BC Ministry of Attorney General. It is publicly shared as educational material. It is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon for those purposes.

Timeline and Effects of Limitation Period Suspension

Effective Periods of Instruments Suspending Limitation Periods

This table provides a timeline of the effective periods of the instruments suspending limitation periods that are discussed in this document. Further background is provided in the Appendix.

Instrument Section(s) Effective Period2
Item 3 of Schedule 2 to CRMA:
M086/2020 – Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order
All March 26, 2020
to
April 14, 2020
Item 7 of Schedule 2 to CRMA:
M098/2020 – Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order No. 2
1 and 3 April 15, 2020
to
90 days after the end of the
EPA state of emergency
2 April 15, 2020
to
August 3, 2020
Item 27 of Schedule 2 to CRMA:
COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation, BC Reg 199/2020
All August 4, 2020
to
March 25, 2021

Ultimately, every mandatory limitation period and any other mandatory time period that is established in an enactment or law of British Columbia within which a civil or family action, proceeding, claim, or appeal must be commenced in the Provincial Court, Supreme Court, or Court of Appeal was suspended for a one-year period from March 26, 2020 to March 25, 2021, inclusive.3 The sole exception is for affected periods relating to builders’ liens, which were only suspended until April 14, 2020 under Item 3 in the above table.

From March 26, 2020 until the date that is 90 days after the date on which the last extension of the declaration of a state of emergency made March 18, 2020 under section 9 (1) of the EPA expires or is cancelled, a person, tribunal, or other body that has a statutory power of decision has an explicit authority to waive, suspend, or extend a mandatory time period relating to the exercise of that power.4 This does not include courts.

How is your mandatory limitation period or other mandatory time period affected?

The EPA and CRMA instruments outlined in the table above served to suspend the mandatory limitation periods and other mandatory time periods to which they applied. Accordingly, in calculating the end date of your limitation period or other time period, you do not count the days on which the applicable provisions were in force. Taking all of those EPA and CRMA instruments together, affected mandatory limitation dates and other mandatory time periods were suspended for exactly one year, from the beginning of the day on March 26, 2020 to the end of the day on March 25, 2021.5 This applies regardless of the level of court in which the action, proceeding, claim, or appeal must be commenced.

BACKGROUND ON EPA AND CRMA INSTRUMENTS

Background – Ministerial Orders under the EPA

On March 26, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General (“Solicitor General”) issued Ministerial Order MO86 under the EPA, the Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order (“Limitations Order #1”), regarding mandatory limitation periods and mandatory time periods.

On April 8, 2020, the Solicitor General made Ministerial Order M098, the Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order No. 2 (“Limitations Order #2”), which repealed and replaced Limitations Order #1, effective April 15, 2020.
The purposes of Limitations Orders #1 and #2 were to:

  • protect public health by suspending or enabling the suspension of time periods in legal and administrative proceedings, as it may not be possible for a person involved to take steps required by legislation; and
  • avoid the problems that a delay of proceedings may cause to a person seeking to enforce their legal rights as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and necessary public health measures taken in response to it during the public state of emergency.

By including exceptions for builders’ liens, Limitations Order #2 also addressed unintended consequences to the construction industry as a result of the suspension of time periods to commence a court proceeding.

Background – Ministerial Orders and the CRMA

Limitations Orders #1 and #2 were both included in Schedule 2 to the CRMA at the time it was brought into force by OIC 391/2020 on July 10, 2020, as Items 3 and 7, respectively. When the CRMA came into force, Limitations Orders #1 and #2 were repealed as ministerial orders under the EPA and became “COVID-19 provisions” under the CRMA.6 Converting these ministerial orders to “COVID-19 provisions” did not affect the dates on which they became effective.7

However, converting these ministerial orders into “COVID-19 provisions” provided authority to allow their effects to extend beyond the end of the state of provincial emergency declared under the EPA, if necessary. Initially, Limitations Order #2 was set to remain in force as a COVID-19 provision under the CRMA for 90 days beyond the end of the EPA state of emergency.

Background – COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation:

On August 4, 2020, the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation, BC. Reg. 199/2020 was made. The regulation did the following things:

  • Under the authority of s. 3 (8) (a) of the CRMA, repealed section 2 of Item 7 in Schedule 2 to the CRMA (Limitations Order #2). The remainder of that item is unaffected, meaning that ss. 1 and 3 of Limitations Order #2 are still set to remain in force as a COVID-19 provision for 90 days beyond the end of the EPA state of emergency.
  • Created a new regulation under s. 10.1 of the EPA that replicated the section repealed above but separated each level of court into its own paragraph.
  • Breaking each level of court into a separate paragraph in the new regulation, as opposed to listing them all in the same sentence, was intended to allow flexibility to set unique end dates for the suspension for each level of court, as appropriate in the circumstances.
  • Under the authority of s. 3 (8) (b) of the CRMA, added this new regulation made under s. 10.1 of the EPA to Schedule 2 of the CRMA.
  • Under the authority of s. 3 (5) (c) of the CRMA, extended the effects of the new EPA regulation for 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency in respect of the Court of Appeal, and for 90 days beyond the end of the state of emergency in respect of the Provincial Court and Supreme Court.

There were no changes to the breadth of the suspension of limitation periods and other mandatory time periods from Limitations Order #2. There was also no change to the exemption of the Builders Lien Act and Division 5 [Builders Liens and Other Charges] of Part 5 [Property] of the Strata Property Act. The only net effect was a change to the end date for the suspension in respect of the Court of Appeal, from 90 to 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency.

OIC 655/2020 – Ends Suspension of Limitation Periods Effective March 25, 2021:

On December 21, 2020, OIC 655/2020 was made. Effective March 25, 2021, this OIC repeals Item 27 in Schedule 2 to the CRMA, which is the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation. Through that repeal, March 25, 2021 is set as the end date for the suspension of every mandatory limitation period and any other mandatory time period that is established in an enactment or law of British Columbia within which a civil or family action, proceeding, claim, or appeal must be commenced in the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court, or the Provincial Court.

This change was made after consultation with the courts and key justice system stakeholders, including the Law Society, the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia, and the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch. The change is made in recognition of the fact that while the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, the justice system has adapted sufficiently to allow for new claims and appeals to be filed.


  1. Sections 1 and 3 of Item 7 of Schedule 2 to the CRMA – Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order No. 2 – are currently set to remain in force until the date that is 90 days after the date on which the last extension of the declaration of a state of emergency made March 18, 2020 under section 9 (1) of the EPA expires or is cancelled. |
  2. Effective dates of EPA instruments that have been added to the schedules to the CRMA are determined by referring to s. 3 of the CRMA and relevant regulations and Orders in Council, including OIC 391/2020, the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation, BC Reg 199/2020 (OIC 453/2020), and OIC 655/2020. |
  3. See ss. 4 (1) and (3) of the Interpretation Act regarding the time of commencement or repeal of enactments. |
  4. See s. 3 of Ministerial Orders M086/2020 and M098/2020, which are Items 3 and 7 of Schedule 2 to the CRMA, respectively.|
  5. See ss. 4 (1) and (3) of the Interpretation Act regarding the time of commencement or repeal of enactments. |
  6. See CRMA ss. 3 (1) and (2) and the definition of “COVID-19 provision” in s. 1.|
  7. See CRMA s. 3 (3) (b).|

This document was developed by the BC Ministry of Attorney General. It is publicly shared as educational material. It is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon for those purposes.

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Purpose

British Columbia is currently in Phase 3 of the Restart Plan1 and an increasing number of non-essential businesses, non-profit societies, and other organizations are reopening their doors or increasing their operations. Undue fears of civil liability for exposure to or transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 should not discourage persons from operating businesses and other services that are important to the reopening of BC’s economy and the provision of services that British Columbians rely on.

The purpose of the COVID-19 (Limits on Actions and Proceedings) Regulation, BC Reg 204/2020 (the Regulation) is to provide comfort and protection from civil liability to persons engaging in activities that are important to BC’s response to, and recovery from, the COVID-19 pandemic. Such activities include the operation of essential services, non-essential businesses, and non-profit services with a community benefit.

History

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a provincial state of emergency was declared on March 18, 2020 under the Emergency Program Act, RSBC 1996, c 111 (EPA). Under the authority of the EPA, the Solicitor General made the following ministerial orders to provide protection from civil liability for damages resulting, directly or indirectly, from an individual being or likely being infected with or exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19):

Date Number Title
April 2, 2020 M094/2020 Protection Against Liability (COVID-19) Order
April 22, 2020 M120/2020 Protection Against Liability (COVID-19) Order No. 2
Note: M120/2020 repealed and replaced M094/2020
June 10, 2020 M183/2020 Protection Against Liability for Sports (COVID-19) Order

Ministerial Orders M094/2020 and M120/2020 provided protection to persons who operated or provided essential services. Ministerial Order M183/2020 provided protection to non-profit sports organizations, as well as their directors, officers, employees and volunteers.

Under all three ministerial orders, a person was required act in accordance with applicable emergency and public health guidance, or reasonably believe they are acting in accordance with such guidance, in order to be protected from liability. Conduct that constitutes gross negligence was not protected by any of the orders.

The COVID-19 Related Measures Act, SBC 2020, c 8 (CRMA) came into force on July 10, 2020. The CRMA enacts ministerial orders M094/2020, M120/2020, and M183/2020 as “COVID-19 provisions.” It also extends the effects of M120/2020 and M183/2020 beyond the end of the state of emergency, as follows:

  • M120/2020: 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency.
  • M183/2020: 90 days beyond the end of the state of emergency.

M094/2020 shows in the CRMA as being extended for 45 days beyond the state of emergency, but that was changed by OIC 391/2020 (B.C. Reg 172/2020). That regulation repealed M094/2020 as a “COVID-19” provision (item 6 in Schedule 2 to the CRMA) effective April 21, 2020, which is the day before M120/2020 came into force.

Section 5 of the CRMA allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations to prescribe who and what acts or omissions are protected from civil liability related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such regulations can have retroactive effect and can endure for up to a year after the CRMA came into force. The ability to extend protections for up to a year beyond CRMA’s July 10, 2020 in-force date enables government to support a smooth transition out of the state of emergency, to respond to a potential further wave of COVID-19, and to support rebuilding of the economy.

Extending the effects of M120/2020 and M183/2020 beyond the end of the state of emergency was intended to ensure that there would be no gap in liability protection if the state of emergency ended before government could develop a new regulation under the CRMA.

Effect of the COVID-19 (Limits on Actions and Proceedings) Regulation

The Regulation is made under section 5 of CRMA. Under the authority of section 3 (8) (b) of CRMA, M120/2020 and M183/2020 are repealed as “COVID-19 provisions” in Schedule 2 to the CRMA, as the effects of the Regulation are broad enough that they are no longer required.

1. What damages are covered by the Regulation?

  • The Regulation applies to damages resulting, directly or indirectly, from an individual being or likely being infected with or exposed to SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • This is the same scope of damages as covered by M094/2020, M120/2020, and M183/2020.

2. Which activities are covered by the Regulation?

  • The Regulation prescribes the following acts in respect of which protection from civil proceedings is available:
    • The operation or provision of an essential service.
    • An activity that has the purpose of benefiting the community or any aspect of the community, including in relation to:
      • the relief of poverty,
      • the advancement of education or religion,
      • the promotion of health,
      • the protection of the environment,
      • the provision of services to a vulnerable or disadvantaged person or group, or
      • the provision of community recreation or leisure activities.
    • An activity, including a business, that is carried on for direct or indirect gain or profit.
  • This list of activities is broader than those that were covered by M094/2020, M120/2020 and M183/2020. For example, the Regulation adds coverage for non-essential businesses, for-profit sport activities, and non-profit activities that are neither essential services nor related to sports.

3. Who is protected by the Regulation?

  • The Regulation provides protection from civil proceedings to any person engaged in a prescribed act that is identified in the Regulation, including if engaging in that act in any capacity on behalf of another person or entity.
  • That means that the Regulation provides protection not only to the directors, proprietors, and primary operators of those activities (i.e. the owners of a business or the directors of a non-profit society), but also to those acting on their behalf, such as employees and volunteers.

4. What conduct is not covered by the Regulation?

  • The Regulation does not cover conduct that constitutes gross negligence.
  • The Regulation does not apply if the person does not follow, or does not reasonably believe they are following, all applicable emergency and public health guidance.
  • The Regulation does not extend to the conduct of private individuals in their personal lives. For example, the Regulation is not intended to extend to activities such as a pick-up soccer game or backyard barbecue with friends.

5. When does the Regulation apply?

  • The Regulation applies retroactively to January 1, 2020 and will remain in force unless and until the CRMA is repealed. The CRMA will be automatically repealed one year after its July 10, 2020 in-force date.
  • The repeal of the CRMA will not affect any protection from civil liability that is acquired under section 5 of the CRMA (see s. 6 of the CRMA).

6. Does the Regulation affect any other protections or defences already available?

  • The regulation is not to be read as affecting, limiting, or abrogating the protection from liability, or other defences from liability, that may otherwise be available to a person or entity.
  • To be clear, this includes other protections or defences available at common law, in another enactment, or in Treaty First Nations’ Final Agreements.

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1 https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/gdx/bcs_restart_plan_web.pdf

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COVID-19 Related Measures Act:

On July 10, 2020, the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 8 (CRMA) came into force. The CRMA addresses legal and practical issues related to supporting BC’s Restart Plan for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CRMA:

  1. makes targeted amendments to the Emergency Program Act, RSBC 1996, c. 111 (EPA) to clarify the power of the Minister to make orders under section 10 (1) of the EPA, and elevates the ability to temporarily modify or alter the application of an enactment to the Lieutenant Governor in Council;
  2. provides a temporary legal framework to enact as COVID-19 provisions under the CRMA ministerial orders and regulations made under the EPA in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to allow the effects of such orders and regulations to continue after the state of emergency ends; and
  3. protects prescribed persons or classes of persons from proceedings for civil liability for damages related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and provides authority for government to make regulations for that purpose.

Part 2 of the COVID-19 Related Measures Act: COVID-19 Provisions

Purpose

On March 18, 2020, in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General (Minister) declared a state of emergency under the EPA.

Following the declaration, the Minister made a number of ministerial orders under the EPA to prevent, respond to or alleviate effects of the pandemic. Without the CRMA, those orders would have expired when the provincial state of emergency ends.

The CRMA provides a temporary legal framework to enact ministerial orders and regulations made under the EPA during the state of emergency, and to allow for flexibility to extend those orders and regulations beyond the end of the state of emergency. The CRMA, therefore, provides government with the tools it needs to continue to assist and protect British Columbians following the expiry of the state of emergency, and to ensure that British Columbians are not faced with unintended practical and legal consequences.

Effect

Part 2 (COVID-19 Provisions) of the CRMA:

  • Enacts some COVID-19-related ministerial orders or regulations made under section 10 or 10.1 of the EPA as provisions of the CRMA, and simultaneously repeals those orders or regulations under the EPA.
  • Extends some of the ministerial orders made under the EPA during the state of emergency for 45 days or 90 days after the date on which the last extension of the state of emergency expires or is cancelled. The details of which orders have been extended and for how long can be found in sections 3 (5) (a) and (b) of the CRMA and regulations made pursuant to sections 3 (5) (c) and 3 (6).
  • Provides authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations to:
    • provide for a different expiry date for some ministerial orders (i.e., other than 45 or 90 days);
    • add additional COVID-19-related EPA orders or regulations to the Schedules to the CRMA (i.e., to enact them as provisions of the CRMA and extend their application);
    • repeal an order or regulation (or part of one) that was enacted as a provision of the CRMA.

Orders or regulations enacted under the CRMA may be further extended by regulation, for a maximum period of up to one year from the date that the CRMA came into force. The CRMA and any regulations made under it will be automatically repealed on that date.

The details of which orders have been added to the Schedules to CRMA and extended or repealed can be found by reviewing the CRMA and the list of regulations made under the CRMA.

The Minister must report orders and regulations made under section 10 (1) or section 10.1 of the EPA to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly within 5 days of making that order or regulation. Similarly, the Attorney General must report to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly within 5 days of making a regulation under the CRMA.

Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation

Contravention of ministerial orders and regulations under the EPA is a ticketable offence. Some of the ministerial orders and regulations made under the EPA have been enacted as provisions of the CRMA. To ensure that the enforcement mechanism continues to apply, OIC 392/2020 amends the Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation under the Offence Act. This ensures that the fines for contravention of a ministerial order or regulation under the EPA continue to apply to contravention of the order or regulation enacted as a provision of the CRMA.

When did the COVID-19 Related Measures Act come into force?

The CRMA came into force on July 10, 2020.

Links to the CRMA and OIC No. 392/2020:

COVID-19 Related Measures Act:
https://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/20008

Order in Council No. 391/2020:
https://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/oic/oic_cur/0391_2020


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On July 8, 2020, the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Related Measures Act (CRMA). Part 2 of the CRMA (COVID-19 Provisions) provides a temporary legal framework to enact and extend the duration of ministerial orders made under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CRMA came into force on July 10, 2020.

Background

On March 26, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General (“Solicitor General”) issued Ministerial Order MO86 under the EPA, the Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order (“Limitations Order #1”), regarding mandatory limitation periods and mandatory time periods.

On April 8, 2020, the Solicitor General made Ministerial Order M098, the Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order No. 2 (“Limitations Order #2”), which repealed and replaced Limitations Order #1 on April 15, 2020.

Purpose of Limitation Order #2

As with the now-repealed Limitations Order #1, the purposes of Limitations Order #2 were to:

  • protect public health by suspending or enabling the suspension of time periods in legal and administrative proceedings, as it may not be possible for a person involved to take steps required by legislation; and
  • avoid the problems that a delay of proceedings may cause to a person seeking to enforce their legal rights as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and necessary public health measures taken in response to it during the public state of emergency.

Limitations Order #2 also addressed unintended consequences to the construction industry as a result of the suspension of time periods to commence a court proceeding.

Effect of Part 2 of the CRMA on Limitation Orders #1 and #2

Limitations Order #1

The CRMA:

  • enacts Limitations Order #1 as a provision of the CRMA, effective March 26, 2020;
  • repeals Limitations Order #1 as a ministerial order under the EPA; and repeals the enactment of Limitation Order #1 as a provision of the CRMA, effective April 14, 2020 by OIC 391/2020, made July 10, 2020.

Limitations Order #2

The CRMA:

  • enacts Limitations Order #2 as a provision of the CRMA effective April 8, 2020 and extends its application for a further period of 90 days from the coming into force of the CRMA; and
  • repeals Limitations Order #2 as a ministerial order under the EPA.

Therefore, under the CRMA:

Limitations Order #1, enacted as a provision of the CRMA, is in effect from March 26, 2020 to April 14, 2020; and

Limitations Order #2, enacted as a provision of the CRMA:

  • is in effect from April 15, 2020, until 90 days after the last extension of the declaration of the COVID-19-related state of emergency expires or is cancelled;
  • can be further extended by regulation; and
  • is identical in purpose to Limitations Order #2.

BC Reg. 199/2020 – COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation:

On August 4, 2020, the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation, BC. Reg. 199/2020 was made under the EPA and the CRMA. The regulation does as follows:

  • Under the authority of s. 3 (8) (a) of the CRMA, repeals section 2 of Item 7 in Schedule 2 to the CRMA (Limitations Order #2). The remainder of that item is unaffected.
  • Creates a new regulation under s. 10.1 of the EPA that replicates the section repealed above but separates each level of court into its own paragraph.
  • Breaking each level of court into a separate paragraph in the new regulation, as opposed to listing them all in the same sentence, will allow flexibility to set unique end dates for the suspension for each level of court, as appropriate in the circumstances.
  • Under the authority of s. 3 (8) (b) of the CRMA, adds this new regulation made under s. 10.1 of the EPA to Schedule 2 of the CRMA.
  • Under the authority of s. 3 (5) (c) of the CRMA, extends the effects of the new EPA regulation for 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency in respect of the Court of Appeal, and for 90 days beyond the end of the state of emergency in respect of the Provincial Court and Supreme Court.
  • There are no changes to the breadth of the suspension of limitation periods and other mandatory time periods from Limitations Order #2. There is also no change to the exemption of the Builders Lien Act and Division 5 [Builders Liens and Other Charges] of Part 5 [Property] of the Strata Property Act. The only net effect is a change to the end date for the suspension in respect of the Court of Appeal, from 90 to 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency

How is your limitation period or other mandatory time period affected?

Limitations Order #1 and Limitations Order #2 (including when enacted as COVID-19 provisions) and the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation (including when enacted as a COVID-19 provision) serve to suspend the limitation periods and other mandatory time periods to which they apply. Accordingly, in calculating the end date of your limitation period or other time period, you do not count the days on which the applicable provisions were in force.

For example, if you had five days remaining in your limitation period before Limitations Order #1 came into force, then you would still have five days remaining, starting on the day after the applicable paragraph of subsection 1 (1) of the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation (as enacted as a COVID-19 provision) is repealed. The repeal dates for the provisions in that regulation that apply to each level of court are specified in OIC 453/2020 (BC Reg. 199/2020).

As of August 4, 2020, OIC 453/2020 (BC Reg. 199/2020) extends periods for commencing proceedings in the Court of Appeal for 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency, and periods for commencing proceedings in the Supreme Court or Provincial Court for 90 days beyond the end of the state of emergency.


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On July 8, 2020, the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Related Measures Act (CRMA). Part 2 of the CRMA (COVID-19 Provisions) provides a temporary legal framework to enact and extend the duration of ministerial orders or regulations made under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CRMA came into force on July 10, 2020.

Effect of Part 2 of the CRMA on the Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID-19) Order (M162)

Background

On May 19, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued Ministerial Order M162 under the EPA, the Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID-19) Order (Electronic Witnessing Order).

The Electronic Witnessing Order provides that during the COVID-19 state of emergency:

  • an enduring power of attorney or representation agreement may be signed and witnessed while the witness and the person making or signing the document are in each others’ electronic presence, so long as the witness is a lawyer or notary public; and
  • an enduring power of attorney or representation agreement may be signed in counterpart.

Effect of Part 2 (COVID-19 Provisions) of the CRMA

The CRMA:

  • enacts the Electronic Witnessing Order as a provision of the CRMA, effective May 19, 2020 and extends its application for a further period of 90 days after the end of the state of emergency that was declared on March 18, 2020;
  • permits the Lieutenant Governor in Council, by regulation, to extend the operation of the Electronic Witnessing Order as a provision of the CRMA, for up to one year; and
  • repeals the Electronic Witnessing Order as a ministerial order under the EPA.

References to “this order” in the Electronic Witnessing Order, enacted as a provision of the CRMA.

Section 3 (8) of the Electronic Witnessing Order provides as follows (underlining added):

(8) An enduring power of attorney made in accordance with this order must include a statement that it was signed and witnessed in accordance with this order.

Similarly, section 4 (7) of the Electronic Witnessing Order provides (underlining added):\

(7) A representation agreement made in accordance with this order must include a statement that it was signed and witnessed in accordance with this order.

The Electronic Witnessing Order is now enacted as a provision of the CRMA, continuing the requirements of sections 3 (8) and 4 (7). Government takes the position that:

  • to comply with these requirements, a statement pursuant to sections 3 (8) and 4 (7) could be phrased as being signed and witnessed "in accordance with the Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID-19) Order as enacted by the COVID-19 Related Measures Act" (underlining for emphasis only);
  • an enduring power of attorney or representation agreement made on or after July 10, 2020 (the day the CRMA came into force) should reference the CRMA. However, as M162 has been enacted as a provision of CRMA, a purposive and liberal interpretation suggests that reference to M162 is adequate; and
  • the repeal of the Electronic Witnessing Order as a ministerial order under the EPA does not impact the validity of enduring powers of attorney and representation agreements made pursuant to that Order (i.e., prior to the coming into force of the CRMA).

The CRMA does not enact the Electronic Witnessing of Wills (COVID-19) Order

Background

On May 19, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued Ministerial Order M161 under the EPA, the Electronic Witnessing of Wills (COVID-19) Order.

The CRMA does not enact the Electronic Witnessing of Wills (COVID-19) Order; it will be repealed when Bill 21, the Wills, Estates and Succession Amendment Act, 2020, is brought into force or expire when the Declaration of Emergency ends, whichever comes first.

Bill 21, the Wills, Estates and Succession Amendment Act, 2020

When brought into force, the amendments made by Bill 21 will allow wills to be executed and witnessed while the will-maker and witnesses are in each others’ electronic presence. Therefore, remote witnessing of wills will continue beyond the expiry of the state of emergency. The sections of Bill 21 that permit wills to be made in electronic form will be brought into force by regulation, once the Supreme Court probate rules have been updated to address the filing of electronic wills.

Bill 21 contains transitional provisions that provide that a will that was remotely witnessed after March 18, 2020, is valid. Therefore, the legislation will replace the temporary remote witnessing provisions in the Electronic Witnessing of Wills (COVID-19) Order (M161) and will also validate wills that were remotely witnessed between March 18, 2020, and the issuance of M161. Government’s position is that remotely witnessed wills that reference M161 do not need to be changed.

Wills, Estates and Succession Amendment Act, 2020 (third reading, Bill 21 - 2020):
https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/5th-session/bills/third-reading/gov21-3


Download a PDF of this Bulletin

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From the Ministry of Attorney General

Working with the judiciary and other justice and public safety-sector stakeholders, government is moving to safely support increased in-person hearings.

“COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges for court users and justice sector partners,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “Working with the judiciary, we are assessing courthouses to determine the best approach to protect the health of court users. Each courthouse is different, but this might mean measures such as marking floors to indicate distances in lines at registry, elevators, washrooms and inside courtrooms, and disinfecting courtrooms after use.”

Courthouses and courtrooms throughout the province are being assessed to ensure they meet the health and safety requirements established by the provincial health officer and WorkSafeBC. Assessments will also determine what additional physical distancing and hygiene measures will be required to stop the transmission of COVID-19, prior to resuming in-person appearances. Plans may differ by location and courthouse configuration.

As part of these assessments, additional health and safety measures being considered include, but are not limited to:

  • reconfiguring and removing furniture to open space in courtrooms and to keep people physically distant from one another;
  • adjusting maximum occupant levels to account for physical distancing requirements;
  • marking floors to indicate the directional flow of movement and places to stand while maintaining appropriate physical distancing at the registry, in elevators and washrooms, and inside courtrooms and courthouses;
  • posting clear and visible signage throughout the courthouse and courtrooms to ensure court personnel and users are aware of and are able to follow health and safety protocols;
  • verbally screening court personnel and users for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure prior to entering court environments;
  • establishing protocols for handling documents and evidence;
  • installing hand sanitizer stations at courthouse entrances, outside courtrooms and in elevator lobbies;
  • placing hand sanitizer bottles in courtrooms at the dais, counsel desks, the witness stand and the clerk's desk;
  • disinfecting courtrooms after use; and
  • frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces in courtrooms and in public areas throughout the courthouses.

The ministry is in the process of meeting with stakeholders, including judges, counsel, court managers and others, to make recommendations and implement changes necessary to keep the public safe when attending court. 

This work is occurring now, with the expectation that within the next few weeks, a limited number of courtrooms will be available throughout the province for in-person hearings

The ministry has also been working to increase technology enhancements outlined in the Court Digital Transformation Strategy. This includes continued expansion of technology for virtual hearings in cases where it is deemed appropriate.

In addition, the Province has also established two advisory groups to help government support courts and tribunals in delivering services as effectively as possible during the pandemic, and in minimizing its impact on the justice system.

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ORDER OF THE MINISTER OF
PUBLIC SAFETY AND SOLICITOR GENERAL

Emergency Program Act

Ministerial Order No. M162

WHEREAS a declaration of a state of emergency throughout the whole of the Province of British Columbia was declared on March 18, 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic;

AND WHEREAS individuals in British Columbia must be able to make enduring powers of attorney and representation agreements in a manner that reduces the threat of COVID-19 to the health and safety of persons;

AND WHEREAS section 10 (1) of the Emergency Program Act provides that I may do all acts and implement all procedures that I consider necessary to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of any emergency or disaster;

I, Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, order that the attached Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID-19) Order is made.

Download the Ministerial Order.

Provincial Court of BC
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In light of concerns raised by the BC Courts, counsel and other courthouse users about the need for timely and coordinated communication about COVID-19 testing and exposures in courthouses, the three levels of Court and Court Services Branch met with senior health officials and have created a Protocol that is now in effect with these main components:

  1. A Public Health Guidance document for courthouses that is publicly posted here.
  2. The BC Centre for Disease Control has created a webpage where the following type of information will be posted about COVID-19 and courthouses: COVID-19 exposures at courthouses where a medical health officer of public health specialist has determined there is a risk of infection to others; incident investigations, notices and summaries related to potential COVID-19 clusters, outbreaks or group testing; and, courthouse site inspections.
  3. Each Regional Health Authority will be responsible for courthouse COVID-19 incident investigations, response and timely communication with the courts, Court Services Branch and where appropriate the public, recognizing that the Health Authorities alone have the information about COVID-19 incidents, cases, exposures, clusters and outbreaks.
  4. If there is to be group testing at a courthouse, notice will be communicated by the Regional Health Authority to those court participants relevant to the investigation.
  5. Targeted access to COVID-19 testing for court participants in relation to anticipated or ongoing court proceedings where, for example, a court participant is experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms and testing is required to determine whether the court proceeding can continue as scheduled.

See the Protocol here.

We thank everyone for their ongoing efforts to support the Courts and the justice system through this extremely challenging time. The Courts are committed to remaining open and accessible, and have taken steps to ensure safety as noted on the following websites:

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Effective Date: 21 December 2020 (unless otherwise stated in this Notice)
NP 19 Additions in red

NOTICE TO THE PROFESSION AND PUBLIC

COURT OPERATIONS DURING COVID-19​

The Provincial Court of British Columbia recognizes that the Province is still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chief Public Health Officers of Canada and the Province still require people to keep a safe distance from each other, but currently there can be a cautious reopening of public places with health and safety protocols in place to minimize the transmission of the virus. Taking this into account, the Provincial Court has resumed court operations as described in this Notice (NP 19). This version of NP 19 has been substantially revised to reflect current court operations only and remove historical information. Archived versions of NP 19 are available here. The directions in this Notice are subject to change as circumstances of the pandemic change. Anyone appearing for an in person hearing must be in full compliance with all of the Provincial Health Officer’s Orders or directions regarding COVID-19 and Notice to the Profession and Public 22: Resuming In-Person Proceedings During COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols. For virtual proceedings, see NP 21 Guide to Virtual Proceedings.

Download this Notice to the Profession and Public.

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Effective Date: 07 December 2020
FAM 08

PRACTICE DIRECTION

EARLY RESOLUTION PROCESS AND EXPEDITED COURT PROCESS TO CHANGE OR
SUSPEND CHILD OR SPOUSAL SUPPORT DUE TO COVID-19

Purpose & Application

The purpose of this Practice Direction is to set out the early resolution process and expedited court process that is available (but not required) for a party who is only seeking a suspension or change to an existing agreement or Provincial Court order about child support or spousal support as a result of a change in income since January 2020 that is related to COVID-19.

For all other relief (including relief for outstanding arrears prior to January 2020) or counterclaims not related to the above, parties may make an application in the normal course on July 8, 2020 when Provincial Court registries are able to accept new family filings.

This practice direction applies to all court registries in the Province. Variations in process due to the Early Resolution and Case Management Model at the Victoria and Surrey registries are noted under section 4 below.

Direction

  1. Effective July 2, 2020 until further direction, the early resolution and expedited court process set out here may be used by parties seeking a suspension or change to an existing agreement or Provincial Court order about child support or spousal support as a result of a change in income since January 2020 related to COVID-19.
  2. Early Resolution Process
    1. How to begin (Intake)
      1. Contact the Family Justice Services Division (Family Justice Services) to schedule your individual needs assessment interview at:
      1. Complete an individual needs assessment with Family Justice Services by telephone or videoconference to identify: the issue(s) that need to be resolved; and determine whether the dispute resolution process is appropriate.
        1. Parties may also receive referrals to legal advice and other community supports.
        2. .A party may be contacted by Family Justice Services if someone else completed the form and named them in the form.
      2. Complete the “Notice of Intention to Change Existing Child or Spousal Support Due to COVID-19 Income Change” form and provide a copy to Family Justice Services and all other parties as noted on the form.
    2. Participation In Dispute Resolution Process
      1. If it is determined that participation in the Dispute Resolution Process is appropriate during the intake process, the parties may participate in a process which may include: mediation with a family justice counsellor, family law mediator, a collaborative family law process, or facilitated negotiation with a child support officer.
      2. Each party must provide financial information as required by Family Justice Services or the dispute resolution professional.
      3. If the parties reach an agreement,Family Justice Services or the dispute resolution professional involved may assist the parties to draft a variation of an existing written agreement which can be filed with the court for enforcement purposes; or assist the parties to apply to the court for a consent variation of an existing court order.
      4. If the parties do not reach an agreement but at least one party has completed a needs assessment interview, the matter may proceed to the expedited court process set out below.
      5. Family Justice Services will complete the bottom of the “Notice of Intention to Change Existing Child or Spousal Support Due to COVID-19 Income Change” form to indicate that one or all of the parties have completed an individual needs assessment interview.
  3. Expediated Court Process
    1. The party must submit the following forms required for court to the Pre-court Case Management Service (PCCM) which can be reached by telephone (604-660-2528 or Toll free 1-866-660-2684) or by email at pccm@gov.bc.ca:
    2. PCCM will review to ensure documents are complete. Once completed, PCCM will file the documents with the court for the party by emailing the documents to the applicable registry.
    3. The party must serve a copy of each of the documents on all other parties to the order or agreement.
    4. The party filing a reply must submit their documents to PCCM, which can be reached by telephone (604-660-2528 or Toll free 1-866-660-2684) or by email at pccm@gov.bc.ca. PCCM will review to ensure documents are complete. Once completed, PCCM will file the documents with the court for the party by emailing the documents to the applicable registry.
      1. See the Provincial Court (Family) Rules regarding documents that need to be filed, which may include a Financial Statement.
    5. A hearing will be scheduled after a reply has been filed, or the reply period has passed and proof of service has been filed.
    6. Each party may be required to provide additional financial information as required by the court.
    7. In some situations, such as where there is corporate income, previously imputed income, or lack of adequate financial information, an Amicus (legal counsel who is not counsel for a party but who assists the court) may review the filed material and speak to it in court. Parties will be advised whether they can expect Amicus to assist the court with their matter prior to the hearing.
    8. These matters will be heard by telephone or videoconference unless a judge orders otherwise.

      Note: When applying to court to vary a child support order, the requirement to complete the Parenting After Separation Program and to file a certificate of completion with the court registry still applies for the following court locations: Abbotsford, Campbell River, Chilliwack, Courtenay, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Penticton, Port Coquitlam, Prince George, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver (Robson Square) and Vernon. If you have already completed the program in the 24 months prior to filing the application, you may be exempt from this requirement. (See Provincial Court (Family) Rules, Rule 21).
  4. Victoria and Surrey Registries (only)
    Variations in process at the Victoria and Surrey registries, due to the Early Resolution and Case Management Model, are noted here.
    1. Early Resolution Process
      1. Complete and file the “Notice to Resolve a Family Law Matter” form to enter into the process (not the “Notice of Intention to Change Existing Child or Spousal Support Due to COVID-19 Income Change”form).
      2. FMEP clients must provide a copy of the “Notice to Resolve a Family Law Matter” form to their enforcement officer.
      3. Each party must meet the early resolution requirements as set out in the Provincial Court (Family) Rules Appendix B, Part 2.
    2. Expedited Court Process
      1. If, after having met the early resolution requirements, a court proceeding is required to change the support order or agreement,the party must submit the following documents to PCCM,which can be reached by telephone (604-660-2528 or Toll free 1-866-660-2684) or by email at pccm@gov.bc.ca,and serve a copy on each other party of the following documents found under “Early Resolution and Case Management Registry Forms (only in the Victoria court registry)”:
      2. FMEP clients must also provide a copy of the documents to their enforcement officer as required by the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act.

History of Practice Direction

  • Original practice direction effective July 02, 2020.
  • Revised practice direction effective December 07, 2020 (updated to add the Early Resolution and Case Management Model in Surrey). 

I make this practice direction pursuant to my authority under the Provincial Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 379 and Rule 20(13) of the Provincial Court (Family) Rules, B.C. Reg. 417/98.

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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Effective Date: 25 November 2020
NP 22  Revisions in red

Purpose

As described in NP 19 Notice to the Profession and Public - COVID 19 Resumption of Court Operations, the Provincial Court is now hearing proceedings virtually and in-person throughout the Province. The Court remains mindful of the need to protect the health and safety of all court users and help contain the spread of COVID-19, while maintaining access to the Court. This Notice outlines the health and safety protocols that will be in place in the courtrooms. It is subject to amendment if there are changes in the COVID-19 situation in British Columbia. Judges, Judicial Justices, and Judicial Case Managers (“Judicial Officers”) have the discretion to direct more detailed precautions depending on the circumstances of a particular court proceeding.

Summary

The health and safety protocols that will be implemented follow the initial orienting principles on safe and accessible courts approved by the federal Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19, which say: “[The Public Health Agency of Canada] recommends employing a hierarchy of control measures, conceived of as a reverse pyramid, to effectively mitigate risk. This approach reflects the requirements of applicable federal, provincial, and territorial occupational health and safety legislation. Elimination of the hazard is the first control measure to be considered. Consequently, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing is the foundation for any risk mitigation strategy. Additional elements can be introduced where physical distancing is impossible or insufficient.”

The Provincial Government has retained the services of a private consultant to assist in identifying the necessary steps to modify courtrooms and courthouses to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. Please refer to the Ministry of Attorney General’s webpage summarizing the steps Government has taken to ensure everyone’s safety at all resumed inperson proceedings, including the steps they are taking regarding the verbal screening process with respect to COVID-19 for people entering courthouses, cleaning protocols, and social distancing protocols inside the courthouse.

All persons attending courtrooms will be required to participate and cooperate to attain the recommended COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This includes practicing physical distancing, sanitizing hands upon entry of a courthouse or courtroom, and adhering to all other recommended health and safety protocols and directions.

The Provincial Court will continue to assess the situation on an ongoing basis. We thank all of the stakeholders who have provided input and information regarding the resumption of priority in-person proceedings. We recognize managing the physical distancing and other health and safety protocols will take the effort and cooperation of all court participants and we thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation.

Notice

1. Addressing instances of symptomatic participants

Counsel and self represented parties must be in a position to confirm at the opening of a proceeding, and at the start of each day of the proceeding, that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side (including counsel, the party, the accused or witnesses) has any symptoms of illness that may be related to COVID-19. As of the date of this Notice, the BC Centre for Disease Control website advises that the symptoms of COVID-19 can include the following:

  1. fever
  2. chills
  3. cough or worsening chronic cough
  4. shortness of breath
  5. sore throat and painful swallowing
  6. stuffy or runny nose
  7. loss of sense of smell or taste
  8. headache
  9. muscle aches
  10. fatigue
  11. loss of appetite
  12. less commonly, gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

While less common, symptoms can also include stuffy nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye), dizziness, confusion, abdominal pain, skin rashes, or discoloration of fingers or toes.

Counsel and self represented parties must also be in a position to confirm that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side traveled outside Canada within 14 days of their anticipated in person appearance in a courtroom.

If an individual who is or was in court starts experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, they should complete the BC Centre for Disease Control’s self-assessment tool, call 811, and/or contact their primary care provider for personal medical advice and follow any directions provided. If the medical advice or public health directions that individual receives could impact an ongoing or upcoming court appearance, counsel or self represented parties should contact the applicable court registry.

2. Witnesses

Prior to the proceeding, counsel or parties must determine if any potential witness is reluctant to attend court due to health-related concerns or for other reasons related to the public health emergency. If you become aware of this information in advance of the scheduled proceeding, parties should arrange to address the question of whether the witness can give evidence by other means, such as by affidavit or testimony by telephone or videoconferencing, etc. It will be up to parties (or their counsel) to make the necessary inquiries with Court Services Branch to ensure there are sufficient resources at the applicable court location for witnesses to appear remotely by video or audio conference, and to ensure that witnesses have the technology to appear remotely.

3. Courtroom Layout

The physical layout of the courtroom, including the position of counsel and the witness will be altered where possible to maintain a safe physical distance between all participants. Where physical distancing between all parties in the court can be achieved through the movement of furniture, plexiglass barriers will not be necessary. In areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained, barriers will be installed. The ability to move within the courtroom, such as by approaching a witness, will be restricted for physical distancing purposes.

Communication between counsel and parties

Counsel must consider how they intend to confer with co-counsel and their clients in the courtroom while maintaining a safe physical distance. Counsel should seek direction from the presiding Judicial Officer to communicate with co-counsel or their client by text message or another method that would not normally be acceptable in court.

Water

There will be no water jugs available in the courtroom during a proceeding. Counsel, parties, interpreters, and witnesses will be permitted to bring their own water in clear plastic bottles that are no larger than one litre in volume. Persons who bring their own water bottles should dispose of or remove them when leaving courtroom. Sheriffs will provide water for in custody accused.

Public and media

In order to maintain a safe physical distance in the public gallery between members of the media and public, the number of seats available will be reduced. If counsel or a party is aware of anyone who intends to observe all or part of the proceeding, they should advise those individuals that while the court remains open to the public, seating is limited, and entry into the courtroom will not be permitted if the safe physical distancing requirements cannot be maintained.

4. Face Masks or Face Coverings

People attending courthouses in British Columbia are required to wear a face mask or face covering, including in entrances, lobbies, waiting areas, registries, hallways, stairways, restrooms and elevators. A face mask or face covering must be worn in a manner that covers your nose and mouth. If you do not have a face mask or face covering, Sheriffs will provide one when you enter the courthouse. While wearing a face mask or face covering can reduce the spread of infection, it does not substitute for physical distancing, which must be maintained whenever possible. The requirement to wear a face mask or face covering does not apply:

  • to a child who is less than twelve years of age;
  • to a person who is unable to wear a face mask or face covering because of (i) a psychological, behavioural or health condition, or (ii) a physical, cognitive or mental impairment;
  • to a person who is unable to put on or remove a face mask or face covering without the assistance of another person; or
  • if the face mask or face covering is removed temporarily for the purpose of identifying the person wearing it.

SeeMinisterial Order No. M425/2020.

In addition, people are required to wear a face mask or face covering in courtrooms unless the presiding judge or justice directs otherwise (for example, in order for the participant’s evidence or submissions to be heard and understood). Any concerns on the part of counsel, parties or witnesses regarding the use of face masks or face coverings in the courtroom should be raised with the Court at the earliest opportunity for consideration by the presiding judicial officer.

5. Oaths or Affirmations

All witnesses testifying in court will presumptively affirm. If a witness wishes to give evidence under oath rather than by affirmation, they must bring a Bible or other religious book or sacred object to court, and take the article with them when leaving court. There will be no Bibles or other religious books available in the courtroom.

6. Documents, Exhibits, and Authorities

Pre-trial conferences will include a discussion about measures that can be taken to reduce the number of physical exhibits entered, including a discussion around whether documents can be provided electronically.

Any party needing to handle an exhibit can use tissues provided and/or use hand sanitizer after handling the exhibit. Gloves may also be available in some locations.

Counsel and self-represented parties must make every effort to limit documentary evidence and case authorities to those that are truly necessary. The Court has always discouraged the practice of filing binders of documents as exhibits that may not be referred to in evidence; that practice is particularly discouraged in the current circumstances. For books of authorities, counsel should include only those cases to which they need to, and will, refer.

Movement of documents and exhibits in the courtroom where unavoidable

Where the passing of copies of documents or physical exhibits to others in the courtroom is unavoidable, counsel and self-represented parties must use the hand sanitizer available in the courtroom to sanitize their hands before and after handling the documents. In addition to hand sanitizer, there may be a supply of gloves in the courtroom for anyone who wishes to use them, as well as instructions for the safe use, removal, and disposal of gloves.

In order to maintain a safe physical distance between counsel, the court clerk, and the witness, documents and exhibits should be placed on the document table before the court clerk and the Judicial Officer enter the courtroom. Where this is not possible or appropriate, at the time a document or exhibit is to be handed up, counsel or self-represented parties must place it on a document table and then return to counsel table at which point the court clerk will pick it up and hand it to the Judicial Officer or witness.

7. Cleaning and Sanitation

Government has retained additional daytime cleaning services during this COVID-19 period to ensure that the high touch areas in courtrooms and courthouse are cleaned frequently.

The courtroom will be cleaned at the end of each court day, including the witness box, accused box, counsel tables, court clerk desk, the judicial bench, public seating areas, and all other areas of the courtroom where people sit. A porter will clean and disinfect all touchpoints after each user (witness, accused, counsel, party, clerk, and Judicial Officer).

A courtroom attendant will wipe down the witness box, including the microphone, horizontal surfaces of the stand, armrests, and handrails after each witness finishes their testimony and at the end of each court day.

In order to facilitate the cleaning of counsel tables, the court requests that counsel who are appearing over multiple days on a particular matter remove their materials from the courtroom each night. If this is not possible or practical (e.g., because of the volume of materials), counsel should pack up their materials into boxes and store them underneath the counsel table.

Hand sanitizer will be available at the judicial bench, counsel tables, the witness stand, and the clerk’s desk. All people attending court will be expected to use hand sanitizer frequently and will be required to apply sanitizer upon their entry to the courtroom.

For more information and details about cleaning protocols, please refer to the Ministry of Attorney General’s webpage.

8. Steps being taken to reduce the number of people attending court

Provincial Court registries are accepting all filings at the applicable court registry either in-person or remotely (by mail, email, fax to fax filing registries under GEN 01 Practice Direction, or using Court Services Online where available). To protect the health and safety of all court users and help contain the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining access to the Court, parties are encouraged to use remote filing options wherever possible.

Counsel attendance at court should be limited to those counsel who are appearing on a matter scheduled in court that day, where something substantive is happening. Counsel are encouraged to connect with witnesses and clients in advance of attending at the courthouse to ensure that the matter will proceed on the date scheduled, and that all of the court participants are not exhibiting any symptoms associated with COVID-19. If the matter will not be proceeding, please contact the Judicial Case Manger immediately to advise them. If the only purpose is to adjourn a matter to another date, neither counsel nor their client should attend court. Rather, in these circumstances, please see,for example:

for the processes to adjourn matters remotely. Counsel are also encouraged to obtain a designation of counsel on all indictable offences.

The Judicial Case Manager’s offices operate on a remote basis only at this time.

History of Notice to the Profession and Public

  • Original Notice to the Profession and Public effective June 05, 2020.
  • See also NP 19 COVID-19: Commencing Recovery of Some Court Operations.
  • The Supreme Court of British Columbia’s COVID-19 Notices and Announcements are posted here.
  • Amended Notice to Profession and Public effective on July 13, 2020 (housekeeping amendments consequential to NP 19 COVID: Resumption of Court Operations – July 13, 2020).
  • Amended Notice to Profession and Public effective on September 15, 2020 (adds to para. 1 that counsel must also be in a position to confirm that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side traveled outside Canada within 14 days of their anticipated in person appearance in a courtroom; and deletes last paragraph regarding unavailability of public listening stations).
  • October 16, 2020 revised section 1 with updated list of symptoms as set out by the BC Centre for Disease Control, and to address situations arising during or after attending court.
  • November 9, 2020 revised #4 on p. 4 regarding the wearing of masks in courthouses and courtrooms.
  • November 25, 2020 revised #4 on p. 4 updating the requirement to wear face masks or face coverings in courthouses and courtrooms.

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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Policy Code: ACC-1

Purpose of Policy

The Court has underlined its commitment to public and media access to court proceedings in Public and Media Access Policies - The Principles of Openness. The purpose of this Policy is to clarify the circumstances and procedures under which members of the public and media have access to in person and virtual court proceedings.

Policy

Members of the public and the media are welcome to attend in person and virtual sessions of the Court. In some circumstances, either legislation requires, or a judge may order, that a proceeding, or part of a proceeding, be held in private. In those circumstances, neither the general public nor the media may be present while Court is in session.

In this Policy, the term “court proceedings” does not include case conferences. Given the private and confidential nature of case conferences, including pre-trial conferences, small claims settlement conferences, small claims trial conferences, and family case conferences, only parties and their lawyers, if they have lawyers, may attend an inperson or virtual case conference unless otherwise permitted by the presiding judge.

At this time, in person attendance at court proceedings is subject to NP 22 Resuming In-Person Proceedings During COVID-19: Health & Safety Protocols. NP 22 provides that in order to maintain a safe physical distance in the public gallery between members of the media and public, the number of seats available in courtrooms will be limited, and entry into the courtroom will not be permitted if the safe physical distancing requirements cannot be maintained.

1. Access to Virtual Hearings

1.1 In this Policy, the term “virtual hearing” refers to a court hearing conducted by audioconference (including telephone) or videoconference. Currently, all judicial interim release (bail) hearings, unless a judge or justice orders otherwise, and some criminal disposition hearings are virtual hearings, and accessible as set out below.

1.2 Members of the public and media wishing to hear or observe a virtual hearing may email the applicable Court Registry as far in advance as possible before the hearing and provide the following information about the hearing they would like to hear or observe:

1.2.1 case name,
1.2.2 case number (if known), and
1.2.3 hearing date (Daily court hearing lists are available here).

1.3 The Court Registry will provide instructions on how to join the virtual hearing.

1.4 Observation of a virtual hearing may be subject to limits on the number of participants that can be connected.

1.5 If observers do not call in at the set time or if the connection is lost, the Court will not disrupt the hearings to connect them.

1.6 The Court’s NP 21 Guide to Virtual Proceedings applies to virtual hearings and sets out virtual hearings etiquette, including:

No recording: You are not permitted to audio- or video-record any portion of a virtual hearing (except accredited media may audio-record for notetaking purposes only). Some hearings are confidential and there may be a publication ban in effect. The BC Courts’ Policy on the Use of Electronic Devices sets out penalties for recording, including prosecution.

1.7 People wishing to hear or observe a virtual hearing must read and comply with NP 21.

1.8 Accredited media should also see Notice to Accredited Media re Access to Provincial Court Proceedings during COVID-19 regarding remote access to other court proceedings.

2. Decorum when Court in Session

2.1 The judge and those participating in court proceedings need to hear clearly everything that is said, and to concentrate on the evidence and submissions. Therefore, persons observing when a Court is in session must act so as not to disturb the Court process. For example, doors to the courtroom should be closed gently if the Court is in session. Members of the public are asked to remain silent when in the Courtroom and to refrain from speaking loudly in the hallways outside of courtrooms.

2.2 If a member of the public or media must enter or exit a courtroom while Court is in session, he or she is urged to do so as quietly and with as little disruption to the proceedings as is possible.

2.3 The basic principle to be remembered is that the conduct of a trial or hearing must not be disturbed; on occasion and to protect the process, a judge may exercise his or her discretion to order that no one enter or leave the courtroom. Such an order might occur during the testimony of a particular witness, during an address by a litigant or a lawyer to the Court, or when the Court is giving a decision about a matter. If such an order has been made, the sheriff on duty will enforce it.

2.4 When listening to a virtual hearing by telephone, a landline may work best. To avoid interrupting the hearing, if using a cell phone put it in silent mode. When observing a video hearing, mute your microphone and turn off your camera.

3. Movement Beyond the Bar

3.1 No member of the media or the public is permitted beyond the Bar in a courtroom, which by convention and long-established practice is an area reserved for lawyers or self-represented litigants engaged in the presentation of a matter to the Court, unless express permission is given by the presiding Judge or Judicial Justice.

3.2 If a member of the media wishes to make an application to the presiding Judge to, for instance, comment upon a discretionary publication ban application, they may rise in the general gallery of the courtroom and ask the presiding Judge to allow them to come into the body of the Court beyond the Bar to orally make an application related to the proceeding.

4. General Guidelines for Media

4.1 Members of the media should also consult the Court’s Public and Media Access Policies, including the Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms Policy, Notice to Accredited Media re Access to Provincial Court Proceedings during COVID-19, and the Media Accreditation Process, as well as ACC-2 Access to Court Records Policy and ACC-3 Information Regarding Bans on Publication.

4.2 When attending Provincial Courthouses in British Columbia, members of the media are asked to conduct themselves with the safety and dignity of the people coming and going from the Court uppermost in their minds.

4.3 They should also be mindful of any publication bans or restrictions imposed by legislation or by the presiding judge.

4.4 These guidelines in no way interfere with the discretion of the presiding judge to resolve issues that arise in a specific trial or matter.

4.5 Whenever in courthouses, media who have sought and obtained accreditation are asked to keep their identification tags on their person at all times and produce them when so requested by a Sheriff or court official.

4.6 Accredited media possessing identification tags will have priority in areas designated for the media unless circumstances relating to issues of safety and/or security make it impossible.

4.7 Accredited members of the media should give the Sheriff or Court Clerk as much advance notice as practical when they intend to use any audio recording device in any Courthouse.

5. Cameras

5.1 As a general rule, when court is in session, the use of cameras – including television cameras and cell phone cameras – is prohibited in any Provincial Court in British Columbia. Camera operators may take cameras into courtrooms for safekeeping if they terminate the power supply. Members of the media may apply to the Court for permission to record a particular session of the Court (see below under “Televising courtroom proceedings”).

5.2 Similarly, visual recording or photographing of a courtroom when Court is not in session is not permitted without the express permission of the Chief Judge.

5.3 Filming or visual recording requests in a courthouse for educational and court related information purposes may be approved at the discretion of the Chief Judge. Photographing, videotaping and filming in the court facilities are not otherwise permitted. Exceptions to the policy may be made if the approval of the Chief Judge has been obtained in advance.

5.4 Visual recording of judges’ chambers and sheriff cells is strictly prohibited.

5.5 Taking photographs, including screenshots, of a videoconference proceeding is strictly prohibited.

6. Televising Court Proceedings

6.1 Applications may be made to a judge of the Court to televise or broadcast all or part of the proceedings in a particular case. It is the policy of the Court that such applications may be granted in the discretion of the presiding judge, provided that he or she finds that it is in the public interest that the proceedings, or part of them, be televised or broadcast, and that to do so will not:

6.1.1 affect the right of a party to a fair trial;
6.1.2 cause discomfort to any witness;
6.1.3 interfere with any privacy interests that may override the public interest in televising the proceedings;
6.1.4 have the potential effect of deterring witnesses in any future similar cases;
6.1.5 cause additional expense to the Court; or
6.1.6 otherwise potentially hamper the ongoing administration of justice in relation to Provincial Court proceedings.

6.2 The presiding judge may use the BC Supreme Court Practice Direction on Video Recording or Broadcasting of Court Proceedings as a guide in assessing the merits of an application.

6.3 The onus of establishing that these conditions are met is on the applicant. The Court may adjourn an application in order that persons whose interests are engaged may obtain legal advice or representation, if to do so is not contrary to the interests of the parties or the public interest in having the matter proceed expeditiously.

6.4 The BC Supreme Court Practice Direction on Television Coverage of Court Proceedings can be found here.

7. Computers

7.1 Members of the public and the media are permitted to use portable computers in Provincial Court provided that they do not disturb the proceedings or interfere with the operation of the court’s own electronic equipment, and that the computers (subject to item 7 below) are used solely for the purpose of note-taking.

8. Electronic Devices in Courtrooms

8.1 See also Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms Policy. This policy sets out the permitted and prohibited use of electronic devices in courtrooms of the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the Provincial Court of British Columbia.

9. Media Accreditation

9.1 See also Media Accreditation Process. This policy describes the process by which media personnel can become accredited with the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the Provincial Court of British Columbia.

10. Judges’ Reasons for Judgment

10.1 When a Judge issues written reasons for judgment, they will be filed with the Court Registry, where a copy may be obtained. In addition, written reasons for judgment are often available on the Provincial Court’s website. If, instead, the reasons for judgment are delivered orally without written reasons being provided, a transcript of oral reasons for judgment can be ordered and requests to listen to the audio recording of a proceeding may be made to the Court Registry in accordance with the Access to Court Records Policy.

10.2 If it is anticipated there will be considerable media interest in a particular decision, efforts will be made by the Court to ensure that the decision is posted to the Court website as soon as possible after the decision has been delivered in Court.

11. Interviews by the Media

11.1 Judges of the Court speak through their decisions and Reasons for Judgment. Judges therefore do not comment on specific cases that are or have been before the Court or may come before the Court in the future.

Contact:
Provincial Court Legal Officer
provincialcourt.bc.ca/Media

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Effective date: 07 October 2020
CRIM 13

PRACTICE DIRECTION

INITIAL APPEARANCE COURT DURING COVID-19

Purpose

Further to NP 19 Notice to the Profession and Public C0VID-19: Commencing Recovery of Some Court Operations (Notice) the Provincial Court will be resuming initial appearance court (IAR) for criminal matters. At the same time, the Court remains mindful of the need to protect the health and safety of all court users and help contain the spread of COVID-19, while maintaining meaningful access to the Court. The purpose of this Practice Direction is to set out some guidelines to govern the resumption of IAR while ensuring that people only come to IAR in-person when necessary.

Directions

Alternatives to in-person appearance

1. To reduce the number of people attending court, counsel attendance at court should be limited to appearing on a matter scheduled in court where something substantive is happening. Counsel must endeavor to avoid unnecessary personal attendances of the accused or counsel at the courthouse wherever possible.

2. The Consent Arraignment form (Form 4) may be used as an alternative to an in-person appearance for adult criminal matters for entering not guilty pleas, elections, as well as for setting dates for preliminary inquiries, trials, hearings and/or pre-trial conference (if the matter will require more than half day of court time).

3. If the only purpose is to adjourn a matter to another date, neither counsel nor their client should attend court. The Consent Requisition form (Form 1) may be used to: change, cancel or call-ahead a non-trial appearance; indicate a guilty plea; set a date for sentencing; or schedule an application before a judge.

To email any of these forms to the Court see the contact information for the applicable local JCM Office here or see Appendix “A” of the Notice for email contact information.

4. See CPD-1 and CRIM 08 for further information about these forms.

In Person Appearances

1. For those cases where in-person appearances are necessary, the following processes will apply.

2. Legal Aid:

  • Legal Aid BC (Legal Aid) intake workers will not be present at courthouses.
  • Where Legal Aid duty counsel is present at courthouses they will assist the accused. Assistance may include:
    1. describing the process;
    2. assisting the accused to connect with a lawyer;
    3. collecting contact information that will allow the lawyer and accused to connect; and,
    4. assisting to have the accused adjourned to another date.
  • The process by which the accused will be adjourned will depend on procedures determined at the applicable local court location.
  • It is not expected that files will be resolved on these appearances.

3. Duty counsel will not provide legal representation where counsel has already been retained, whether privately or through Legal Aid, unless specifically requested to do so by counsel and/or the accused.

4. At the accused’s first court appearance, an abbreviated disclosure package may be available at locations where Crown counsel are appearing in person. Full disclosure will subsequently be available electronically upon request to Crown counsel by counsel for the accused. Self-represented litigants will be requested to contact local Crown counsel offices by email or telephone to schedule the pickup of paper disclosure packages.

5. If the matter needs to be adjourned, it will generally be adjourned for at least six to eight weeks so that by the next court date, the accused is in a position to do something substantive such as fix a date for a trial or pre-trial conference or resolve the file.

6. Defence counsel, upon accepting a Legal Aid contract, must advise the Crown counsel office responsible for the prosecution that they are representing the accused. Defence counsel are encouraged to do so in writing.

7. Counsel must communicate with each other before any court appearance so that the appearance will result in something substantive happening. If not, counsel must adjourn the matter to another date without the parties having to attend court.

8. Court appearances are not required to obtain disclosure.

Pre-trial conferences

1. . There will be mandatory pre-trial conferences before a judge for all initial appearance court matters that are being arraigned for more than one day of court time in order to determine how the matter will proceed.

2. For further direction see: Criminal Practice Direction (CRIM 12): Criminal Pre-Trial Conferences During COVID-19.

History of Practice Direction

  • Original Practice Direction effective June 12, 2020.
  • October 1, 2020: Housekeeping changes – reference to “more than half a day” revised to “more than one day” further to the revised CRIM 12 Practice Direction.
  • October 7, 2020 revised to delete historical information that was in the “Application” section.

I make this practice direction pursuant to my authority under the Provincial Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 379.

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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Effective Date: 07 October 2020
NP 23

Purpose

The BC Provincial Court sits in many court locations in the province. We have been working with government and in some cases, local communities, to have the consultant that government has retained view the circuit courts and make recommendations about what steps need to be taken to make those courts safe and accessible to members of the public. Once the consultant has viewed those court locations, we continue to work with government to implement the recommended changes so that existing matters can be heard in those locations in a timely way.

To reduce the number of people attending circuit court, counsel attendance at court should be limited to appearing on a matter scheduled in court where something substantive is happening. Counsel must endeavor to avoid unnecessary personal attendances of the accused or counsel at the courthouse wherever possible. Please refer to “Alternatives to in-person appearance” in CRIM 13 Practice Direction: Initial Appearance Court During COVID-19 and Notice to the Profession and Public COVID 19: Resumption of Court Operations.

Counsel are encouraged to use the Consent Requisition or Consent Arraignment forms to have files removed from the list prior to the scheduled court date if nothing substantive will occur on that date. We have attached a list below of the Judicial Case Managers and the circuit courts they are responsible for scheduling.

If you require legal assistance with your matter, you may contact Legal Aid at 1-866-577-2525.

Notice

If your court location is listed in the table immediately below, you will be required to contact the scheduling contact noted below for your location (by email or telephone) before the date you were originally scheduled to attend Court in order to set your next appearance date or to be provided with information regarding your next appearance date. If you do not know when your next court date is, you can also contact the scheduling contact noted below to obtain that information.

COURT LOCATION SCHEDULING CONTACT
100 Mile House Cariboo.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-398-4377
Atlin L.Caporale@provnicialcourt.bc.ca
Anahim Lake Cariboo.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-398-4377
Bella Bella Vanessa.Fong@gov.bc.ca
236-468-3628
Bella Coola  Vanessa.Fong@gov.bc.ca
236-468-3628
Burns Lake Smithers.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
Castlegar WKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-354-6870
Chetwynd Peace.District.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-787-3416
Clearwater Kamloops.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-828-4086
Creston EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Dease Lake Terrace.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-638-2140
Fernie EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Fort St. James PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2740 or 250-614-2756
Fraser Lake PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2756
Ganges/Saltspring Dun.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-746-1201
Gold River CampbellRiver.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-286-7556 (Mon and Tue)
250-334-1237 (Wed, Thu, and Fri)
Golden EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Good Hope Lake L.Caporale@provnicialcourt.bc.ca
Grand Forks WKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-354-6870
Hazelton Smithers.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
Houston Smithers.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
Invermere EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Kitimat Terrace.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-638-2140
Klemtu Vanessa.Fong@gov.bc.ca
236-468-3628
Kwadacha DKrenz@provincialcourt.bc.ca
Lillooet Kamloops.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-828-4086
Lower Post L.Caporale@provnicialcourt.bc.ca
Mackenzie PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2740 or 250-614-2756
Masset PrinceRupert.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
McBride PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2756
Merritt Kamloops.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-828-4086
Nakusp WKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-354-6870
New Aiyansh Terrace.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-638-2140
Pemberton NVan.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
604-981-0293
Queen Charlotte City PrinceRupert.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
Revelstoke Vernon.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-549-5433
Sparwood EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Stewart Terrace.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-638-2140
Tofino Nanaimo.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-741-5868
Tsay Key Dene DKrenz@provincialcourt.bc.ca
Tumbler Ridge Peace.District.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-787-3416
Valemount PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2740 or 250-614-2756
Vanderhoof PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2740 or 250-614-2756
Ucluelet Nanaimo.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-741-5868

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE, AND ANY UPDATES WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

History of Notice to the Profession and Public

  • Original Notice to the Profession and Public issued on July 17, 2020. This Notice includes information from the Circuit Courts - Update – July 3, 2020.
  • Updates to locations and manner of hearing July 29, 2020.
  • Updates to locations and manner of hearing August 7, 2020.
  • Updates to charts and contact information August 19, 2020.

By Direction of Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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Effective Date: 07 October 2020​
NP 21

NOTICE TO THE PROFESSION AND PUBLIC
GUIDE TO REMOTE PROCEEDINGS

Purpose

In light of the extraordinary circumstances during the current public health emergency, and as described in NP 19 COVID-19: Resumption of Court Operations, some court proceedings will be held remotely by audioconference or videoconference until further notice, unless otherwise ordered by a judge. Although the court proceeding is taking place remotely and judges, parties, lawyers, and court staff may attend by audioconference or videoconference, it remains a formal setting.

This Notice provides information for anyone who will appear before the Provincial Court for a remote proceeding beginning May 7, 2020 until further notice. In this Notice, the term “remote proceeding” means a hearing or case conference conducted by audioconference (including telephone or Microsoft Teams) or videoconference (including Microsoft Teams).

A step-by-step guide to appearing in a Microsoft Teams audioconference or videoconference proceeding is attached as Appendix “A”. It contains detailed information about connecting to and managing a Microsoft Teams audioconference or videoconference. Review the guide carefully before your matter proceeds.

Notice

Remote Proceeding Etiquette

In some ways, the behaviour expected of people appearing remotely is the same as if they were actually in a courtroom. However, conducting a proceeding fairly and effectively by audioconference or videoconference requires some modification to etiquette and behaviour. The following list is not exhaustive, but provides some guidelines for the best practices to follow during a remote conference or hearing:

I. Parties, Counsel for Parties, Witnesses, and Other Court Participants

  1. For audioconference and videoconference proceedings
    1. No recording: You are not permitted to audio- or video-record any portion of a remote proceeding. Some proceedings are confidential and there may be a publication ban in effect. The BC Courts’ Policy on the Use of Electronic Devices sets out penalties for recording, including prosecution. If you need a transcript of a hearing, it is possible to order one from the transcription service from the court registry.
    2. Confidentiality: The conversation between the parties, their counsel (if represented), and the judge in a case conference or pre-trial conference is private and confidential. Only parties and/or their counsel should appear at the conference and no-one else should be present, unless otherwise permitted by the conference judge. Do not forward or share the meeting link or dial up information to any unauthorized individuals.
    3. Location: The Court understands that you do not have the advantage of appearing in a controlled courtroom environment. You may be participating from a small, shared living space. Please make reasonable efforts to find a quiet, private space with a neutral background for your court appearance.
    4. Mute microphone: To minimize background noise, mute your microphone when you are not speaking. If you are using a computer, close applications on your computer, such as Twitter, Facebook, and email, that are not needed so you are not interrupted during the proceeding. Also, put your cell phone to silent mode.
    5. Introductions: When you first join the remote proceeding, identify yourself (and who you represent, if applicable).
    6. Speak clearly and slowly: Remember to unmute before speaking. Speak clearly and slowly enough for everyone to follow what you are saying. Pause frequently to allow the judge to ask questions and avoid speaking over the judge or other participants. This is particularly important when there is an interpreter. Mute the microphone again when done speaking. Follow the judge’s directions about when to speak or ask questions.
    7. Objecting, responding or commenting: If you find it necessary to object to, respond to, or comment on something that an opposing party has said and it cannot wait:
      • if on video, click on the raise hand button or raise your hand to signal to the judge that you wish to speak; and
      • if on audio, respectfully interrupt the conversation when appropriate to let the judge know that you have something to say.
    8. Forms of address: A Provincial Court Judge is called “Your Honour”. For the other party and/or their lawyer ask in advance how they wish to be addressed.
    9. Time limits: Time limits may have been set in advance, or the judge may set them during the conference or hearing. You must follow them to make sure everyone has a fair chance to be heard.
    10. Materials: Collect and organize the documents you will need in advance, and make sure you have them with you for the hearing or conference.
    11. Use pen and paper: Take notes with a pen and paper. The sound of typing can be distracting, and make it hard to hear others. Avoid shuffling papers as that also can be distracting.
    12. No food or drink: As in a courtroom, do not eat or drink anything but water during the proceeding.
  2. For audioconference proceedings
    1. ​Answering the call from the Court: Telephone hearings are recorded by the Court. When you answer the court clerk’s call, introduce yourself by saying your first and last name. The court clerk will note the names of all the parties and lawyers attending the hearing on the court record.
    2. Say your name whenever you start speaking. At an audioconference proceeding, it can be hard to know which person is talking.
    3. Audio connection: If using a telephone, a land line works better than a cell phone. In either case, do not use the speaker phone function. Instead, use a hand-held phone or use a set of headphones with a built-in mic and mute feature. If possible, avoid the use of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).
  3. For videoconference proceedings
    1. ​Dress appropriately: Judges will be dressed as they would for any settlement or family case conference to reflect the professionalism of the Court. Dress as if you are attending an in-person proceeding in a courtroom. Click on the link for more information on how to dress for court.
    2. Arrive early: YYou should be prepared to join the videoconference proceeding at least 15 minutes before the start of the proceeding, to allow time to address any technical issues. Before the videoconference proceeding starts, you will enter a virtual waiting room and remain there until the proceeding begins.
    3. Use your name when prompted for a screen name: When you join the videoconference proceeding, you will be asked to enter your name. The name that you enter will be displayed for all participants to see. Type your first and last name.
    4. Sitting and Standing: You do not need to stand when the videoconference proceeding starts or ends, and you can remain seated when addressing the judge..
    5. Bowing: You do not need to bow at any time during the videoconference proceeding.
    6. Focus on your camera: Direct eye contact is important. When speaking, look into the camera rather than at the person(s) that you are speaking to.
    7. Technical difficulties: If the image and sound quality is interrupted, ask whether other participants can still hear you. If so, continue speaking as the image will reappear once bandwidth returns to normal. If problems continue, it may be necessary for some of the participants to turn off their video. If the session ends unexpectedly, please try re-connecting. If the Microsoft Teams video platform is not working, the Court will contact the parties either to provide Telus teleconference dial-in details or to reconnect the parties directly by audioconference, so all parties may continue the proceeding by dialing in from any telephone.

II. Media and the Public

  1. Undertaking: Any member of the media or public observing a virtual hearing undertakes to remain silent (mute their microphone) and, if applicable, hidden (keep camera turned off) for the duration of the virtual hearing.
  2. No recording: You are not permitted to audio- or video-record any portion of a virtual hearing (except accredited media may audio-record for notetaking purposes only). Some hearings are confidential and there may be a publication ban in effect. The BC Courts’ Policy on the Use of Electronic Devices sets out penalties for recording, including prosecution.

History of Notice to the Profession and Public

  • Original Notice to the Profession and Public issued and effective on May 7, 2020.
  • Amended Notice to the Profession and Public effective on July 13, 2020 (housekeeping amendments consequential to NP 19 COVID 19: Resumption of Court Operations – July 13, 2020).
  • Revised section on how to address counsel and parties on July 29, 2020.

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

Download the Full NP 21 with Appendices
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Effective Date: 07 October 2020​
NP 14

The following are the duties, classes of cases or matters to which Court Services Justices of the Peace (JPs) are assigned:

  1. a. All matters relating to receiving informations.
    b. Issuing process compelling the attendance of a person except:
    1. Private informations pursuant to s. 507.1 and 810 of the Criminal Code;
    2. Where such process requires a warrant or authorization to enter a dwelling house, premises or other place;
    3. Subpoenas requiring opposing counsel to give evidence.
  2. a. Consent remand(s) of persons in custody pursuant to s. 516 of the Criminal Code where the accused is represented. This assignment does not include making no contact orders under s. 516(2) of the Criminal Code.
    b. All matters relating to voluntary appearances on unexecuted small claims warrants of arrest issued under Small Claims Rule 14(6) and releases of persons arrested on warrants issued under Provincial Court (Family) Rule 6(13), Provincial Court (Adult Guardianship) Rule 3(8), and Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, s. 23(6).
    c. Where a youth court judge is not reasonably available, giving directions regarding the giving of notice pursuant to the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), s. 26(5) (as connected with any youth bail); and adjourning proceedings or dispensing with notice pursuant to YCJA, s. 26(10).
  3. All matters relating to the approval of sureties, the perfection of bail, and the rendering of an adult or youth by a surety or responsible person under s. 766, 767, or 767.1 of the Criminal Code or s. 31(5) of the YCJA.
  4. a. Orders for the initial detention of seized items and further orders for detention of seized items, where the application is uncontested.
    b. Orders for the return or forfeiture of seized items where application is made by a prosecutor, peace officer or other person having custody of the items seized and there is no dispute or uncertainty as to the lawful owner or the lawful owner is unknown.
  5. Applications for time to pay or extensions of time to pay unless otherwise ordered by a provincial court judge. A JP who can grant time to pay can also issue a warrant of committal for a person who voluntarily chooses to serve time in custody rather than pay.
  6. Adjournments (i) in the context of performing assigned duties or (ii) on the direction of a judge (and where jurisdiction to grant adjournments is given to a judge or the court under an enactment, authorization is given pursuant to s. 31(1) of the Provincial Court Act to exercise all the powers and jurisdiction of the court with respect to adjournments).
  7. When exercising the functions of a CSB trial scheduler, fixing of dates for preliminary inquiry, trial, hearing, conference or other proceeding.
  8. Receiving oaths, affirmations, affidavits and declarations as required by federal or provincial Evidence Acts or otherwise by law.
  9. Desk Orders for Accredited Journalists, who are provided audio recordings of Court proceedings on removable media (such as compact disk) pursuant to the Access to Court Records Policy or by file transfer protocol pursuant to NM 01 Accredited Media Access to Provincial Court Proceedings during COVID-19.
  10. Where approved by the Chief Judge, and as required for backup coverage of Judicial Case Managers, any matter that a Judicial Case Manager is assigned to perform.
  11. Applications by mail to unseal an applicant’s own adult criminal pardoned or suspended files for travel purposes.

History of Notice to the Profession and Public

  • Original Notice to the Profession and Public issued on August 22, 2018 and effective October 1, 2018 (removes from previous Assignment: (i) “all matters involving judicial interim release that are uncontested as to release and the form and conditions of release including uncontested variations of existing release orders and making a detention order where counsel consent”; and (ii) making a no contact order under s. 516(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada where the accused is represented and by consent).
  • Amended Notice to the Profession and Public issued on November 27, 2018 and effective December 1, 2018 (adds “Applications by mail to unseal an applicant’s own adult criminal pardoned or suspended files for travel purposes”).
  • Amended Notice to the Profession and Public effective July 13, 2020 (adds “Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, s. 23(6)” to para. 2b and adds “or by file transfer protocol pursuant to NM 01 Accredited Media Access to Provincial Court Proceedings during COVID-19” to para. 9).
  • Amended Notice to the Profession and Public effective October 7, 2020 (adds reference to s. 810 of the Criminal Code to para. 1bi).

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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Effective date: 28 September 2020
CRIM 12

PRACTICE DIRECTION

CRIMINAL PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCES DURING COVID-19

Background

In R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27, the Supreme Court of Canada told all participants in the criminal justice system they have “a role to play in changing courtroom culture and facilitating a more efficient criminal justice system” (at para. 45). Participants were directed to engage in “proactive, preventative problem solving” (supra, at para. 112) and encouraged to “eliminate or avoid inefficient practices” (supra, at para. 117).

Since these directions in Jordan, over three quarters of all criminal files set for trial in Provincial Court collapsed on the scheduled trial date because of guilty pleas, stays of proceedings, bench warrants or adjournments. In this same timeframe, only 4% of all criminal files actually proceeded to a hearing in the Provincial Court. These statistics reveal that too many criminal files are set for trial and do not proceed causing significant scheduling difficulties and inefficient use of court time.

These concerns are amplified in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Provincial Court is implementing this practice direction to help address these concerns by mandating pre-trial conferences for criminal files (adult and youth) at all Provincial Court locations in the Province. This practice direction also represents one of the steps the Court is taking to resume court operations during the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring public health continues to be protected.

Purpose

There are two main purposes behind these pre-trial conferences. The first is to reduce the number of files being set for trial by helping to ensure that only those requiring a trial are actually set for hearing. The second purpose is to manage those files that are to be set for trial to ensure that accurate time estimates have been determined prior to dates being set and ensure hearings complete on time as scheduled.

The practice direction’s overarching aim is to reduce these inefficiencies in the criminal justice system by employing pre-trial conferences as a tool for the participants to collaborate and conduct cases more efficiently for the overall benefit of the administration of justice. The Court is committed to ensuring the fair, efficient and timely resolution of criminal files and to upholding the accused’s right to be tried within a reasonable time. Using pre-trial conferences to help reduce day of trial collapse rates and trial continuations is an important part of that commitment.

Application

This practice directive applies to adult and youth criminal files in the Provincial Court as follows:

  1. Criminal trials, preliminary inquiries, and continuations of trials and preliminary inquiries originally scheduled during March 16 to May 16, 2020 (“COVID #1”) and May 19 to July 3, 2020 (“COVID #2”), excluding summary proceedings court files;
  2. All new adult and youth files with charges occurring during COVID #1 and COVID #2, excluding summary proceedings court files;
  3. All new adult and youth files with charges occurring after July 3, 2020 requiring one day or more of trial time; and
  4. Criminal trials, preliminary inquiries, and continuations of trials and preliminary inquiries scheduled to start commencing July 6, 2020 and onwards requiring one day or more of trial time that are not able to proceed due to lack of court time or are otherwise adjourned.
  5. All new adult and youth files with charges occurring after July 3, 2020 requiring one day of trial time where a pre-trial conference is requested by both counsel.

All files set out in 1 and 4 above must have a pre-trial conference before a new trial or preliminary inquiry date is scheduled. All files set out in 2 and 3 above must have a pre-trial conference before being scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry.

Where the accused has more than one criminal file with at least one file as described in 1, 2, 3, or 4 above, their other file(s) may be included in the pre-trial conference for resolution discussions. Counsel should provide these additional file numbers to the Judicial Case Manager when scheduling the pre-trial conference.

Effective September 28, 2020, this practice direction only applies to files where the accused is represented by counsel. Self-represented accused with trials requiring one day or more of trial time will have a pre-trial conference set before a judge, preferably the trial judge, approximately 8 to 10 weeks before the first date of trial for trial management purposes as described in NP 19.

Directions

A. General

  1. The pre-trial conference judge will not be the trial judge if the matter proceeds to trial. If the matter is resolved prior to trial, the disposition may be done by the pre-trial conference judge or assigned to another judge. Where multiple pre-trial conferences occur on a file, the pre-trial conferences will be conducted by the same judge unless that judge is unavailable.
  2. Pre-trial conferences will take place during court sitting hours unless reasonable accommodation of counsel’s schedule is required. Pre-trial conferences will be set in 30 to 45 minute intervals, although counsel may request additional time if they feel it will be required.
  3. Unless otherwise ordered by the pre-trial conference judge, pre-trial conferences will be held via videoconference or audioconference and off the record.
  4. Crown counsel with conduct of the file1 (“Crown counsel”) and counsel for the accused must attend all pre-trial conferences, unless the pre-trial conference judge directs otherwise.

B. Before the pre-trial conference

  1. Before a pre-trial conference, Crown counsel and counsel for the accused must have:
    1. Thoroughly reviewed their files, and
    2. Discussed with each other the issues set out in paragraph 8.
  2. The parties may provide, and are encouraged to provide, the opposite party and the pre-trial conference judge with any materials that may assist with resolution discussions and trial management issues. Unless the parties agree otherwise, these materials are to be used only for pre-trial conference purposes; these materials will not be added to the court file and will be returned to the submitting party if requested or destroyed when no longer necessary for those purposes. At a minimum, Crown counsel must provide a Crown Synopsis in Form 1 (CRIM 12), a copy of the Information Crown counsel is proceeding on, and any criminal record of the accused. At least three business days prior to a scheduled pre-trial conference, the parties must exchange copies of all materials for the pre-trial conference and must deliver, electronically or otherwise, a copy of those materials to the Judicial Case Manager at the applicable court location for the attention of the pre-trial conference judge.
  3. If Crown counsel or counsel for the accused requests a preliminary inquiry, that party shall file a Statement of Issues and Witnesses in Form 2 (CRIM 12) unless otherwise ordered by the Court. The statement is to be filed with the Court preferably at the arraignment hearing.

C. At the pre-trial conference

  1. At a pre-trial conference, the parties are required to have authority and be prepared to make decisions about:
    1. resolution of the matter;
    2. disclosure;
    3. applications, including ones pursuant to the Charter, that the parties will bring at or before trial;
    4. the number and identity of witnesses the Crown counsel intends to call at the preliminary inquiry or at trial;
    5. any admissions the parties are willing to make;
    6. any legal issues that the parties anticipate may arise in the proceeding; and
    7. an estimate of the time needed to complete the proceeding.

      Parties should review the Pre-Trial Conference Checklist for the types of issues that may be discussed at the pre-trial conference.
      Commentary: In order to ensure they are able to make decisions on these issues, counsel for the accused must have communicated with their client to obtain instructions. For Crown counsel, they must have communicated with any civilian witnesses essential to the viability of the prosecution (for example, sex assault complainants) in order to assess their reliability and level of interest in the matter as well as obtain any resolution input where that may be appropriate.

      The pre-trial conference judge will proactively canvass resolution in order to avoid setting trial dates. If the accused or their counsel require some time before proceeding to disposition, they should not be setting trial dates to obtain that time but rather pleading guilty and obtaining that time by adjourning the disposition. For Crown counsel, they need to be reasonable and realistic in their sentencing positions and exercise “enhanced discretion for resolving individual cases” (Jordan, para. 138). The pre-trial conference judge will also proactively canvass the issues to reduce them to only those requiring adjudication, and then determining both how much time will be required and how the file is to be scheduled. The intention is to ensure that those files that actually proceed to trial complete as scheduled thereby avoiding continuation dates that generate further delays in completing criminal proceedings.

D. After the pre-trial conference

  1. After hearing from the parties during a pre-trial conference, the pre-trial conference judge may take one or more of the following steps:
    1. make any case management directions or orders;
    2. confirm or amend the estimates of the time required to hear the proceeding;
    3. set timelines for the exchange of materials on applications to be heard, or for the completion of disclosure;
    4. set parameters for the hearing of applications;
    5. confirm any admissions made on the record and have all parties sign off on the admissions in writing;
    6. adjourn to the Judicial Case Manager to set a date for:
      1. a subsequent pre-trial conference;
      2. disposition;
      3. preliminary inquiry; or
      4. trial.
    7. take any further steps or provide any further directions consistent with the purpose of this Practice Direction.
  2. Following the conclusion of a pre-trial conference, any directions or orders made by the pre-trial conference judge may be reduced to writing or otherwise recorded.
  3. If the matter is confirmed or set for hearing, a pre-trial conference will be set prior to the first date of hearing to ensure the matter will still be proceeding on the scheduled dates. If following this pre-trial conference, the file remains set for hearing, the pre-trial conference judge will then complete a Pre-Trial Conference Record, including any agreements or admissions, and have it placed in the court file.

    Commentary: The parties can again expect the pre-trial conference judge to proactively pursue resolution and trial manage the file at this pre-trial conference. The Pre-Trial Conference Record will record any admissions, trial scheduling directions, witness issues and other details the trial judge needs to know for conducting the trial.
  4. If following a pre-trial conference, the matter is confirmed or scheduled for trial or preliminary inquiry, the pre-trial conference judge may complete a Pre-Trial Conference Report and have it placed in the court file. The Pre-Trial Conference Report will provide information the trial judge needs to know for conducting the trial, including any admissions, agreements, orders or trial scheduling directions made, and any issues that are expected to arise. If counsel wish to receive a copy of this Report, they can obtain it from the court file at the originating registry or they can request it be sent to them electronically by providing their e-mail addresses to the pre-trial conference judge at the pre-trial conference.

History of Practice Direction

  • Original practice direction dated April 28, 2020.
  • See also NP 19 COVID-19: Commencing Recovery of Some Court Operations.
  • The Supreme Court of British Columbia has issued CPD-3, Criminal Practice Direction.
  • Updated practice direction dated June 12, 2020 revising “Application” section and changing reference in para. A2 from “one hour” to “30 to 45 minute”. • Updated practice direction dated July 2, 2020 revising “Application” section.
  • Updated practice direction effective September 28, 2020 (revises “Application” section and makes consequential amendments; deletes Pre-Trial Conference Record and adds Pre-Trial Conference Checklist and Report); adds para. 12.

I make this practice direction pursuant to my authority under the Provincial Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 379 and Rule 3 of the Provincial Court of British Columbia Criminal Caseflow Management Rules, SI/99-104.

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

1 For the purpose of this Practice Direction, “Crown counsel with conduct of the file” may include the applicable “Intake Crown” until the “Trial Crown” is assigned.

Face Masks

Effective Nov 24, people attending courthouses in British Columbia are required to wear a face mask or face covering, including in entrances, lobbies, waiting areas, registries, hallways, stairways, restrooms and elevators. In addition, people are required to wear a face mask or face covering in courtrooms unless the presiding judge, justice, master or registrar directs otherwise.

Face masks or face coverings must be worn in a manner that cover a person’s nose and mouth. If you do not have a face mask or face covering, Sheriffs will provide one when you enter the courthouse. While wearing a face mask or face covering can reduce the spread of infection, it does not substitute for physical distancing, which must be maintained whenever possible. The requirement to wear a face mask or face covering does not apply:

  • to a child who is less than twelve years of age,
  • to a person who is unable to wear a face mask or face covering because of (i) a psychological, behavioural or health condition, or (ii) a physical, cognitive or mental impairment,
  • to a person who is unable to put on or remove a face mask or face covering without the assistance of another person,
  • if the face mask or face covering is removed temporarily for the purpose of identifying the person wearing it.

In addition, all people attending courthouses in British Columbia are asked to be familiar with all health and safety protocols and to cooperate in following them in order to protect everyone in courthouses in this province.

Click on the links below for more information regarding procedures when attending proceedings in each court:

Court of Appeal for British Columbia
Supreme Court of British Columbia
Provincial Court of British Columbia

Health & Safety Protocols

Courthouses across the province are increasing in-person appearances. Read the latest directives and learn about protocols implemented by the government and the courts to ensure the health and safety of all legal stakeholders.

Guides to Virtual Court Proceedings

CBABC has prepared a series of guides to assist lawyers using Zoom and Teams for court proceedings. Visit Practice Management Resources to download the guides.

Court of Appeal for BC
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Effective immediately and until further notice, all appeal hearings will be heard via Zoom unless otherwise directed. The Chief Justice of British Columbia makes this direction in response to the recent BC public health order aimed at minimizing travel and social contact and encouraging people to work from home where possible. Parties must continue to follow all other directions set out in the various Public Notices of the Court of Appeal. Please complete the Court Proceedings Form at least seven days before the hearing date with an indication of videoconference as the preferred mode of hearing until further notice. Parties who have already scheduled an in person hearing will be contacted by the registry.

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This Notice replaces the Notice to the Public Regarding the Court of Appeal for British Columbia’s Response to COVID-19 issued 19 August 2020. New information regarding face masks has been added to section 3.3.2 Hearings in a Courtroom.​

1. Introduction

On 17 March 2020, 30 March 2020, 20 April 2020, 27 May 2020, 10 June 2020, 24 June 2020, 7 July 2020, 22 July 2020 and 4 August 2020, the Chief Justice of British Columbia issued directions modifying the operations of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia to protect the health of litigants, court staff, judges and members of the public and to help contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

This new notice, which applies to civil and criminal appeals, replaces the 17 March, 30 March, 20 April, 27 May, 10 June, 24 June, 7 July, 22 July, 4 August  and 19 August notices, and provides new information regarding face masks which are strongly encouraged in all courthouses in British Columbia (see section 3.3.2 below). Additionally:

1.1 Suspension of service and filing deadlines

Service and filing deadlines began to run again on 14 September 2020.

1.2 Requests for in-courtroom or video hearings

Parties may now request that their appeal hearing proceed in a courtroom or by Zoom videoconference. Please see 3.3 below for more information.

1.3 Continuation of court operations

The following information has not changed:

  • The registry is accepting filings in all matters,and parties are encouraged to advance their appeals if they are able to do so. All litigants and counsel should note that the suspension of service and filing deadlines will not be further extended after 14 September 2020.
  • In civil appeals, electronic filing remains mandatory for counsel and optional for self represented litigants. Section 3.2 below has been repealed and replaced with the updated instructions on filing materials in all appeals and applications provided in this new Notice to the Public Regarding Modified Filing Directions.
  • The Court will hear all chambers applications and Registrar’s appointments, including those that are not urgent, by teleconference or in writing. For all new chambers applications or appointments, litigants must file and serve materials according to the timelines required under the Court of Appeal Act, Court of Appeal Rules, Criminal Code, the Court of Appeal Criminal Rules and the Court’s Civil and Criminal Practice Directives.

2. New Appeals and Applications for Leave to Appeal

2.1 Required Time Periods to Commence Civil or Family Proceedings

The required time periods to commence civil or family proceedings stopped running on 26 March 2020. For further details review Ministerial Order No. M098. This means that until further notice you may start an appeal if you wish to do so, but, if you are unable to start an appeal, you can wait without concern that the limitation period to start civil or family proceedings will expire.

The suspension of time periods to commence civil or family proceedings started on 26 March 2020 and will remain in effect until 45 days after the state of emergency declared under s. 9(1) of the Emergency Program Act on 18 March 2020 expires or is cancelled. For further details review Order in Council 453 and the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, s. SBC 2020, c. 8. Any notice of appeal or application for leave to appeal that needed to be filed before 26 March 2020 is still subject to the usual timeline to initiate, including those that needed to be filed between 18 March 2020 and 26 March 2020.

2.2 Required Time Periods to Commence Criminal Proceedings

Parties should continue to file and serve notices of appeal or applications for leave to appeal in criminal matters within required time periods.

3. Existing Appeals and Applications

3.1 Filing and Service Deadlines

The filing and service deadlines for all existing appeals, existing applications for leave to appeal, and other existing matters before the Court were suspended by direction of the Chief Justice and they will remain suspended until 14 September 2020. This means that the required time periods to file or serve materials stopped running on 18 March 2020 and will not start to run again until 14 September 2020. Beginning 14 September you will have the same amount of time to file and serve materials as you would have been entitled to on 18 March 2020.

For clarity, the Chief Justice has further directed that the operation of s. 25 of the Court of Appeal Act is also suspended from 18 March 2020 until 14 September, meaning that matters will not be placed on the inactive list or dismissed as abandoned by operation of s. 25 during this period.

Neither the direction of the Chief Justice effective 18 March 2020 nor Ministerial Order No. M098 suspends the timelines for taking a step required by court order or direction. However, counsel/litigants can expect the Court will likely consider the exceptional circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor if an extension is sought.

Despite the suspension of deadlines until 14 September, the registry is accepting filings in all matters, including matters that are not urgent. Parties are encouraged to advance their appeals and to communicate with one another on how they will proceed.​

3.2 How to File Documents and Materials

Section 3.2 of this Notice has been repealed and replaced with the court’s Notice to the Public Regarding Modified Filing Directions in Civil and Criminal Appeals.

3.3 Appeal Hearings

Since early April, the Court has conducted most appeals by video conference. As of 13 July 2020, however, the Court can accommodate appeal hearings in the courtroom or by video conference subject to the limitations explained below. The parties may also consent to have their appeal conducted solely in writing by submitting a request to the Registrar indicating their consent.

The Court appreciates that during the COVID 19 pandemic the preference of counsel/litigant(s) as to mode of hearing may relate to personal circumstances. The Court does not generally wish to play a role in deciding between the alternatives, although the Court may exercise its discretion to direct the mode of hearing.

3.3.1 Court Proceedings Form - Preferred Mode of Hearing

In order to permit efficient scheduling, the Court requires that at least seven days before an appeal hearing, counsel/litigant(s) file a “Court Proceedings Form” described below. Before completing the Form counsel/litigants are encouraged to consult and reach consensus on the mode of hearing to be selected.

Where one counsel/litigant would prefer a video hearing, no reason need be disclosed to the Registry or to the other counsel/litigant(s); in this instance, regardless of whether consensus has been reached, the Court will allow the hearing to proceed by video conference absent extraordinary circumstances.

Where all litigants would prefer an in-courtroom hearing, the Court will allow the hearing to proceed in a courtroom unless social distancing guidelines cannot be met or unless there are other factors that make an in-courtroom hearing unsuitable or impractical.

Counsel/litigants must submit the Court Proceedings Form to advise the Court:

  1. the preferred mode of hearing (in-courtroom or video);
  2. who will be attending the hearing;
  3. for video hearings, any concerns about the privacy or confidentiality of information that will be involved in the video proceeding;
  4. for video hearings, any personal concerns about attending by video; and
  5. for video hearings, proposed steps to mitigate any of the concerns identified.

At the appeal hearing, counsel/litigants must expect to address the nature and terms of any publication bans or sealing orders (including who is subject to such orders).

3.3.2 Hearings in a Courtroom

The Court has made adjustments to the physical facilities at the courthouse to ensure hearings will comply with public safety guidelines. At this time, all hearings in a courtroom will take place in courtrooms 50 or 60 with a maximum of four lawyers or self-represented litigants attending at one time. Parties should be aware that because of social distancing guidelines, usually no more than seven observers may be accommodated in the courtroom.

Counsel/litigant(s) are asked to advise the registry immediately if unexpected circumstances related to the COVID-19 virus arise prior to the hearing, such that a counsel/litigant prefers to switch to a video conference hearing. No reason need be provided to the Registry and the Court will endeavor to accommodate such a switch. A request for such accommodation should be made as early as possible but may be made right up until the morning of the hearing.

Counsel/litigants must bring their own water supply and present their arguments from their own table (individual lecterns will be provided). Furniture will be cleaned and disinfected between hearings.

Additionally, people attending courthouses in British Columbia are strongly encouraged to wear face masks, including in entrances, waiting areas, registries, hallways, stairways, restrooms and elevators. If you do not have a face mask, Sheriffs will provide one when you enter the courthouse. Children under two years of age, persons with a medical condition or disability that inhibits wearing a face mask and persons who are unable to place or remove a face mask without assistance are exempt. While inside individual courtrooms the presiding justice or registrar may modify this recommendation.

While wearing a face mask can reduce the spread of infection, it does not substitute for physical distancing, which must be maintained whenever possible. All people attending courthouses in British Columbia are asked to be familiar with all health and safety protocols (including those developed by the Court Services Branch) and to cooperate in observing them in order to protect everyone in courthouses in this province.

3.3.3 Video Conference Hearings

Video conference hearings will proceed using Zoom, a commercial service that has been employed successfully in conducting hearings in other Canadian courts.

Instructions on videoconference logistics and Court etiquette are provided in this Notice to the Public regarding video conference proceedings. Parties will be expected to become familiar and test their video and audio capabilities using the Zoom platform before any court hearing.

3.3.4 Access to Hearings

Members of the media or public wishing to access hearing in a courtroom or by video conference, should see the Notice to the Public regarding access to court proceedings.

3.4 Chambers Hearings

All chambers applications will proceed by teleconference unless otherwise directed. For all new chambers applications, counsel/litigants must file and serve materials according to the timelinesrequired under the Court of Appeal Act, Court of Appeal Rules, Criminal Code, the Court of Appeal Criminal Rules and the Court’s Civil and Criminal Practice Directives. Chambers applications may also proceed in writing by approval of the Court on consent request addressed to the Registrar.

The Court’s capacity to hear a full chambers list may remain compromised. As such:

  • Counsel/litigants should coordinate with one another before filing a chambers application and should be prepared to meet all subsequent filing and service deadlines set out in the Court of Appeal Act and Rules.
  • Counsel/litigants must check the online list of available dates before filing a chambers application in accordance with Booking Civil Chambers Applications (Civil Practice Note, 8 May 2017), and should check again just before e-filing.
  • Counsel/litigants should be patient with the occasional need to re-book chambers applications to other dates, given expected demands. The chambers scheduler, as a Deputy Registrar, has the final say on the reassignment of dates, if necessary (no appeals to the Registrar).

Given the need to conduct chambers matters by teleconference and get materials to the presiding judge, the late filing of chambers materials will not be permitted.

3.5 Hearings before the Registrar

All hearings set to proceed before the Registrar will proceed by Zoom, teleconference, in writing, or as directed by the Registrar. As with chambers, for all new appointments, counsel/litigants must file and serve materials according to the timelines required under the Court of Appeal Act and Court of Appeal Rules, Criminal Code, Court of Appeal Criminal Rules,and the Court’s Civil and Criminal Practice Directives. Counsel/litigants may also request or consent to an appointment being heard in writing only.

4. Self-Represented Litigants

Self-represented litigants are expected to comply with the modified processes set out in this notice.

Access Pro-Bono has a dedicated appeals program. If you require assistance contact Heather Wojcik 604-424-8286. You can also visit accessprobono.ca or call 604-878-7400 or 1-877-762-6664 to find out more information about Access Pro-Bono emergency telephone clinics that have been set up in response to COVID-19.

Additionally, anyone e-filing materials in the Court of Appeal or preparing to appear before the Court by Zoom video conference may contact the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch at members@cbabc.org for technical support with managing PDF Adobe or Zoom video conference software.

5. Registry Contact Information

General Inquiries: 604.660.2468
Maria Littlejohn, Court Scheduler: 604.660.2865
Manjit Gunglay, Chambers Scheduler: 604.660.2859
Kristine Dhamrait, Registrar Scheduler: 604.660.2729
Fax filings: 604.660.1951

Mail or Courier: Vancouver Registry

The Registry Counter will be open unless required to be closed in particular COVID-19-related circumstances. Before attending at the Registry Counter, please check HERE to confirm whether it is open or closed.

If the Registry Counter is open:

BC Court of Appeal
The Law Courts
400 – 800 Hornby Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6Z 2C5

If the Registry Counter is closed due to COVID-19:

BC Court of Appeal
The Law Courts
206 - 800 Smithe Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6Z 2E1

Dated 6 November 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Robert J. Bauman
Chief Justice of British Columbia

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Note: this Notice replaces the Notice to the Public Regarding Access to Court Proceedings During the COVID-19 Pandemic dated 7 July 2020​

Introduction

Since 13 July 2020, the Court of Appeal has been able to hear all appeals by video conference or in the courtroom, in consideration of the preference of the litigants/counsel, unless social distancing guidelines cannot be met or unless other factors make an in-courtroom hearing unsuitable or impractical. All chambers applications and Registrar’s appointments continue to be conducted by teleconference or in writing, unless otherwise directed.

The Court of Appeal is taking the following steps to ensure that accredited media and other members of the public have access to, and can observe, court proceedings during this exceptional time. The Court of Appeal is committed to the open court principle and will be examining additional steps to ensure all members of the media and public can access Court proceedings. The Court asks for patience as it works to fulfill its appellate function and Constitutional functions while adopting new technology and procedures.

Access to Video and Teleconference Proceedings

The Court’s weekly hearing list and chambers list are updated daily and indicate which matters areproceeding by video conference, in the courtroom or by teleconference.

Access to Video Conference Proceedings

To observe matters proceeding by video conference click on the public link provided on the Court’s weekly hearing list. This will allow you to join the video conference as an observer live from your device. Note that the public link may not be posted until the morning the video conference is set to proceedand, if you do not already have the Zoom application downloaded on your device, you can follow the prompts to install it, or join the meeting over the web. In order to maintain appropriate decorum during a video conference proceeding, the judges and the people making submissions to the court will not be able to see or hear the people observing.

Access to Hearings in the Courtroom

To observe matters proceeding in the courtroom, check the Court’s weekly hearing list or on the bulletin board in the lobby at 800 Smithe. The lists will indicate the name of the proceeding, the mode of hearingand, if applicable, the courtroom number.

The Court has made adjustments to the physical facilities in the courtrooms to ensure hearings will comply with public safety guidelines. At this time, all in-courtroom hearings will take place in courtrooms 50 or 60. Anyone wishing to observe a hearing in a courtroom should be aware that because of social distancing guidelines, usually no more than seven observers may be accommodated at one time. For appeals anticipated to draw a large number of observers, the Court will consider proceeding by videoconference in order to ensure people wishing to observe are able to do so.

The Court Services Branch has developed health and safety protocols which apply to all public spaces of the courtroom. All people attending are asked to be familiar with these protocols and to cooperate in observing them.

Access to Teleconference Proceedings

To observe matters proceeding by teleconference submit a Request to Attend Teleconference Proceedings no later than 12 noon the day before the hearing date. Late requests cannot be processed in time to respond with the dial-in information you will need.

The number of callers that can be connected through a single teleconference number is limited and priority will be given to parties to the proceeding and members of accredited media. More than one person may listen to the proceeding from a single phone.

Note that counsel are permitted to share connection details with their co-counsel and clients if they will be listening from separate phones, however, connection details should not be shared with anyone else. Counsel are asked to inform the registry if they require connections for more than 10 separate telephones.

In order to maintain appropriate decorum during a teleconference proceeding you must dial into the teleconference at the set time. The court will not disrupt ongoing proceedings to connect you. Additionally, anyone observing must mute their microphone so as to limit the possibility of disruptions from background noise.

Policy on use of electronic devices in courtrooms

The Court's Policy on the use of electronic devices in courtrooms applies to all court proceedings including those conducted remotely by video or teleconference. This means that members of accredited media may audio record proceedings for the limited purpose of verifying their notes. Any other audio or video recording of the proceeding including screen shots or other photographs is prohibited. Anyone who uses an electronic device in a manner prohibited by the policy is subject to sanction, including prosecution for contempt of court.

Media Participation in Court Proceedings

In any appeals where the media wishes to make submissions, such as where a publication ban is opposed or challenged, accommodations for participation will be arranged in the same manner as for other parties, detailed in the Court’s Notice to the Public Regarding the Court of Appeal's Response to COVID-19 dated 6 November 2020.

Media Access to Digital Audio Recordings (DARS)

Any requests for access to court audio recordings (post-hearing) by accredited media should be made by completing the usual access to audio request form and attaching a remote access to DARS undertaking to the automatically generated email before submitting the request. Requests will be processed by Court Services Branch personnel in the usual manner. If access is granted the requestor will receive an email confirmation and a link to a digital FTP site to remotely access the requested audio recording.

Access to Court Records

The Court will continue processing requests for access to the court record in the usual manner as prescribed under the Court of Appeal’s Record and Courtroom Access Policy.

Dated 6 November 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Robert J. Bauman
Chief Justice of British Columbia

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1. Introduction

This Notice provides directions on filing documents in civil and criminal appeals. Beginning 14 July 2020 this Notice rescinds and replaces the directions described in section 3.2 of the Notice to the Public Regarding the Court of Appeal’s Response to Covid-19 dated 7 July 2020.

Beginning 14 July 2020, and despite Rule 54.1(5), all documents in civil appeals must be electronically filedby counsel using Court Services Online (CSO). Paper, fax, or email filings described in Section 3.8 of this notice are permitted only in the following cases:

  • Self-represented litigants, who are encouraged but not required to use the e-filing system;
  • Any civil appeals involving publication bans or sealing orders;
  • Any document in civil chambers that exceeds 300 pages;
  • Any document in a civil appeal larger than 100MB in size;
  • Condensed books filed in advance of the hearing of a civil appeal in accordance with Section 3.6 below;
  • Any other documents as may be directed by the Registrar to be filed in paper in larger appeals where the record exceeds, or is expected to exceed, 8,000 pages.

As e-filing remains unsupported for criminal appeals, any criminal filings must be received in paper, by fax, or by email as described in section 3.8 below.

2. Mandatory e-Filing for Counsel in Civil Appeals

2.1 Getting Started: Obtain a Court Services Online (CSO) Account

Parties who have never used electronic filing must create a BCeID account (either a Basic or Business account) or a BC Online account and register it with Court Services Online. Anyone having difficulty with electronic filing should contact Court Services Online Support either by email Courts.CSO@gov.bc.ca or call toll free within Canada 1-800-663-6102 for assistance. Please do not contact the registry for assistance with electronic filing. The registry will not be able to assist you.

2.2 Formatting Requirements for e-Filed Documents

All documents filed through Court Services Online (CSO) must be in Portable Document Format (PDF) and must comply with the following requirements:

  • Be Less than 100MB in Size: Limitations to the e-filing system do not allow documents larger than 100MB to be filed;
  • True Copies: Provide a legibly reproduced true representation (i.e., an identical or true copy) of the original document, whether that original is scanned from paper or saved into PDF from another program, such as Microsoft Word;
  • Comply with Court Forms: Format documents in accordance with court forms , except for certain paper-based requirements that are dispensed with as described below in Section 2.3;
  • Page Numbered: Number pages so that the PDF page numbering matches the actual page numbering of the document (i.e. PDF page “25” of the electronic appeal book brings up page “25.” To achieve this, do not assign page numbers to the title page, instead assign “page 1” to the first page of argument/content). Place PDF page numbers in the top centre of each page;
  • Avoid Scanning: Only scan documents where necessary. Do not scan factums, submissions or other documents that have been created electronically because hyperlinks will be lost. If scanning is necessary because the original document is in paper, the scan must be Optical Character Recognized (OCR’ed) so that the PDF can be copied and pasted into another document;
  • Do not Enable Security Settings: Do not incorporate any file properties or activate any security settings that might restrict or prevent the Court from viewing, printing, saving, annotating, or searching the electronic document;
  • Hyperlinked Index and PDF Bookmarks: Any indexes prescribed by Court forms must be hyperlinked to the contents of the document. Any document over 50 pages must also include PDF bookmarks. Such bookmarks must consistently, meaningfully, and clearly describe the individual documents or sections of the document. For example, it is not acceptable in an affidavit to bookmark to “Exhibit 1,” Exhibit 2” etc. The index should describe the contents of each section: e.g.: “Exhibit 1 – Letter from John to Jane Doe.” The document must be set to open the bookmarks automatically on opening the file.

There is no requirement to internally hyperlink different filings (i.e. hyperlink a factum to an appeal book)and the e-filing system does not currently support this capability. Case authorities in factums, statements or submissions may continue to be hyperlinked externally (i.e. to pdf versions of CanLII decisions); however, the Court will now also require a complete PDF book of authorities.

Court of Appeal guides for using Adobe DC Pro to meet these requirements are available here. There are also many low-cost or free alternatives to the Adobe software. Additionally, anyone preparing PDF documents to file with the Court of Appeal can email the Canadian Bar Association BC branch at members@cbabc.org for assistance using Adobe software to meet the above requirements.

2.3 Changes to Court Rules and Directivesfor e-Filed Documents

This Notice changes several rules and requirements related to service and filing for civil appeals. All requirements set out in the Court of Appeal Rules and Practice Directives that cannot be met when documents are filed electronically, (e.g. requirements to file copies of documents, or to bind documents like the factum in specific ways) are suspended. For greater certainty, the following requirements are suspended:

  • Volumes: There is no need to split files less than 100 megabytes into 300/200 page “volumes.” For example, a book of authorities should be a sequentially numbered single PDF file of less than 100MB, not split into multiple 200 page files;
  • Use Alternative Forms of Signature: Except for affidavits, orders, and statutory declarations, documents filed solely with a typewritten signature (e.g., "Joan Smith") satisfy the signature requirement. Alternatively, scanned signatures are acceptable for all documents, including affidavits, orders and statutory declarations;
  • No Transcript Extract Books: Do not file a Transcript Extract Book under Rule 27. The parties mustuse the condensed book process described in section 3.6 below;
  • No Coloured Covers: Coloured covers of books or documents are not required;
  • Limited Retention of Paper Versions: The requirement to retain the paper version of the document submitted electronically under Rules 54.1 (6), (7), or (9) is modified. If the party can prove, to the satisfaction of the Court, that the record has been securely kept in electronic format (such as PDF/A), the party only needs to retain the electronic version.

In addition, the following Practice Directives do not apply to electronic filings:

3. Limitations and Exceptions to E-Filing

3.1 Optional E-Filing for Self-Represented Litigants

Self-represented litigants are encouraged to electronically file their records in accordance with the terms of this directive. However, self represented litigants may also file using the methods described insection 3.8. Access Pro-Bono has a dedicated appeals program. If you require assistance contact Heather Wojcik 604-424-8286. You can also visit www.accessprobono.ca or call 604-878-7400 or 1-877-762-6664 to find out more information about Access Pro-Bono emergency telephone clinics that have been set up in response to COVID-19.

3.2 No e-Filing in Criminal Appeals

Court Services Online (CSO) is presently unable to accept criminal appeals for electronic filing. File using the methods described in section 3.8.

3.3 Limited e-Filing in Civil Appeals Involving Publication Bans or Sealing Orders

Parties may optionally file the Notice of Appeal or Notice of Application for Leave to Appeal electronically using Court Services Online (CSO). Include a letter within the e-filing package that describes the exact nature of any publication bans or sealing orders (as required by Publication Bans and Sealing Orders (Civil Practice Directive, 4 June 2018)). However, all subsequent filings must use the methods described in section 3.8 below.

3.4 No e-Filing for Documents that Exceed 300 Pages in Civil Chambers

No document may be electronically filed in chambers if that document exceeds 300 pages. If the document exceeds this size, it must be filed in paper (in person or by courier/agent) in accordance with Section 3.8 below.

3.5 No e-Filing Documents Exceeding 100MB in Civil Appeals

Court Services Online (CSO) has a 100MB limit on the size of electronically filed documents. This size limitation will cover about 80% of the Court’s electronic filings. If the document is larger than 100 MB, the material cannot be electronically filed and must be submitted in paper in accordance with Section 3.8 below. Do not attempt to file multiple volumes of a document through the e-filing system or file a portion electronically and a portion in paper. For larger appeals in excess of 8,000 pages, see Section 4 below.

3.6 Mandatory Condensed Books in Civil Appeals

For civil appeals where factums, transcripts, or appeal books have been e-filed, parties must file paper copies of a condensed book for the Court to use in the appeal hearing in accordance with Section 3.8 below.

Parties should file three (3) copies and serve their condensed books on the opposing parties at least seven (7) business days before the hearing of the appeal. The requirement in Condensed Books (Civil & Criminal Practice Directive, 19 September 2011) that they be handed up in Court is dispensed with. The Condensed Book may contain documents essential to the hearing, but only those that must be physically shown to the Court, including those excerpts from transcript, appeal book and authorities that the party will refer to in its oral argument.

3.7 Limitations on e-Filing of Electronic Media in Civil Appeals (Soundand Video Exhibits)

Occasionally, there may be a need to include electronic media in appeal books, such as audio or video recordings. The process for doing this with paper filings is described in Electronic Media in Appeal Books (Civil & Criminal Practice Directive, 13 May 2016). Presently, the e-filing system will not allow parties to embed multimedia within PDF documents. Accordingly, parties must indicate in the appeal book index that electronic media is being submitted separately and must submit the related electronic media by providing four identical memory sticks (labeled with the appeal file number #CAXXXXX). These may be submitted in accordance with Section 3.8 below.

3.8 Fax, Paper,and Email Filings (Only Where Permitted by Sections 3.1 –3.7)

For those exceptions outlined in sections 3.1 to 3.7 only, parties may file documents in the following ways:

  • By Fax: In the case of filings that are less than 20 pages, by fax in accordance with Use of Facsimile in the Court of Appeal (Civil & Criminal Practice Directive, 19 September 2011), with the understanding that the prohibition on filing bound materials does not apply;
  • By Email: For Factums, statements, transcripts, appeal records, and appeal books only, by sending PDF copies less than 25MB by e-mail to CACounter@bccourts.ca. Any emailed documents must observe all requirements in Section 2.2 above, including those filed by self-represented litigants.
  • Paper Copies in Person or by Mail/Courier/Agent: Please check here to determine whether the registry counter is open for business or closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. If the registry counter is open, documents must be filed at 400 – 800 Hornby Street. If the Registry counter is closed, documents must be filed at 206 - 800 Smithe Street. Note the registry may not process these filings for at least 24 hours, given COVID-19 risks, but will backdate documents to the date they were postmarked or delivered. Please do not deliver any copies besides those required by the Court. You will receive an email attaching a scan of the stamped cover page as confirmation that the document is filed and, for that purpose, you must provide an email address on the cover of the document to be filed. You should serve the remaining copies of your document together with a copy of the stamped cover page.

4. Case Management of Larger Appeals

If an appeal involves, or is anticipated to involve, more than 8,000 pages of material, parties must seek directions from the Registrar as soon as possible and not less than 90 days prior to the hearing of the appeal.

5. Registry Contact Information

General Inquiries: 604.660.2468
Maria Littlejohn, Court Scheduler: 604.660.2865
Manjit Gunglay, Chambers Scheduler: 604.660.2859
Kristine Dhamrait, Registrar Scheduler: 604.660.2729
Fax filings: 604.660.1951

Mail or Courier to the Vancouver Registry (check here to see if the Registry is open or closed during regular hours)

If the Registry Counter is open:

BC Court of Appeal
The Law Courts
400 – 800 Hornby Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6Z 2C5

If the Registry Counter is closed due to COVID-19:

BC Court of Appeal
The Law Courts
206 - 800 Smithe Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6Z 2E1

Dated 7 July 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Robert J. Bauman
Chief Justice of British Columbia

Supreme Court of BC
+

COVID-19 Notice No. 27
Date: Revised November 6, 2020

Highlighted changes:

  • Part IV has been revised to update the guidance about wearing face masks in courthouses.

Judge alone trials have been taking place in all court locations since early June, and criminal jury trials resumed in most court locations in September.

The Provincial Government has retained the services of a private consultant to assist in identifying the necessary steps to modify courtrooms and courthouses to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. Please refer to the Ministry of Attorney General’s information about COVID-19 Court Recovery Operations summarizing the steps taken to ensure everyone’s safety in courthouses and courtrooms, including the steps they are taking regarding the screening process for people entering courthouses, cleaning protocols, and physical distancing protocols inside the courthouse.

Certain general precautions will apply to all in person court hearings, appearances and trials. Judges, masters and registrars have the discretion to direct more detailed precautions depending on the circumstances of a particular court hearing. These measures are subject to change without notice as the Court receives further guidance and direction from public health authorities.

I. Trial Management Conferences, Pre-Trial Conferences and Other Pre-hearing Conferences

Counsel and self-represented parties at a trial management conference (“TMC”), a criminal pre-trial conference (“PTC”) or any other type of pre-hearing conference are expected to confirm that the trial or hearing can proceed in accordance with the precautions and restrictions set out below and to advise the presiding judge or master of any problems these measures may present. Any such problems should be addressed in advance of the trial or hearing. Counsel and self-represented parties will also need to address any additional concerns that may apply in the specific circumstances of their trial or hearing.

For civil or family trials, if counsel or self-represented parties are unprepared, the presiding judge or master may adjourn the trial and award costs against the unprepared party or litigant.

II. Addressing instances of symptomatic participants

Counsel and self represented parties must be in a position to confirm at the TMC, PTC, or other conference, at the opening of trial, and at the start of each day of the trial or at the start of any other in court appearance that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side (including counsel, the party, the accused or witnesses) has any symptoms of illness that maybe related to COVID-19. As of the date of this Notice, the BC Centre for Disease Control website advises that the symptoms of COVID-19 can include the following:

  1. fever
  2. chills
  3. coughor worsening of chronic cough
  4. shortness of breath
  5. sore throat
  6. runny nose
  7. loss of sense of smell or taste
  8. headache
  9. muscle aches
  10. fatigue
  11. loss of appetite
  12. nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

While less common, symptoms can also include stuffy nose, conjunctivitis (pink eye), dizziness, confusion, abdominal pain, skin rashes or discoloration of fingers or toes.

Counsel and self represented parties must also be in a position to confirm that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side traveled outside Canada within 14 days of their anticipated in person appearance in a courtroom.

If an individual who is or was in court starts experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, they should complete the BC Centre for Disease Control’s self-assessment tool, call 811, and/or contact their primary care provider for personal medical advice and follow any directions provided. If the medical advice or public health directions that individual receives could impact an ongoing or upcoming court appearance, counsel or self represented parties should contact Supreme Court Scheduling.

III. Witnesses

Prior to the TMC, PTC or other pre-hearing conference, counsel or parties must determine if any potential witness is reluctant to attend court due to health-related concerns or for other reasons related to the public health emergency. The court is unlikely to require the witness to attend in such circumstances, and the TMC, PTC or other pre-hearing conference will address the question of whether the witness can give evidence by other means, such as by affidavit or testimony by telephone or videoconferencing, etc.

IV. Face Masks

People are strongly encouraged to wear face masks when attending courthouses including in entrances, waiting areas, registries, hallways, stairways, restrooms and elevators. If you do not have a face mask, Sheriffs will provide one when you enter the courthouse. Children under two years of age, persons with a medical condition or disability that inhibits wearing a face mask and persons who are unable to place or remove a face mask without assistance are exempt.

Inside individual courtrooms, the presiding judge, master or registrar may modify this recommendation, for example, in order for the participant’s evidence or submissions to be heard and understood. Any concerns on the part of counsel, parties or witnesses regarding the use of masks in the courtroom should be raised for discussion at the TMC, PTC or other pre-hearing conference or with the presiding judge, master or registrar at the earliest opportunity.

V. Oaths or Affirmations

If a witness wishes to give evidence under oath rather than by affirmation, they must bring a Bible or other religious book or sacred object to court. There will be no Bibles or other religious books available in the courtroom.

VI. In Custody Accused Persons

Crown and defence counsel should be familiar with the current policy of BC Corrections concerning the attendance of detained accused persons in court and be prepared to discuss the considerations raised by the policy at the PTC.

VII. Exhibits, Documents, and Authorities

Counsel and self-represented parties must make every effort to limit documentary evidence and case authorities to those that are truly necessary. The court has always discouraged the practice of filing binders of documents as exhibits that counsel may not refer to or that are not entered into evidence; that practice is particularly discouraged in the current circumstances. For briefs of authorities, counsel should include only those cases to which they need to, and will, refer.

Civil and family hearings and trials

Counsel and self-represented parties should deliver copies of documents that they intend to enter as exhibits or rely on in cross-examination to other counsel/parties in advance, rather than simply passing them out in the courtroom. The same applies to common books of documents, written submissions, and briefs of authorities.

Criminal trials and extradition hearings

Crown counsel should deliver copies of documents that they intend to enter as exhibits to defence counsel in advance of the trial or extradition hearing, rather than simply passing them out in the courtroom. Defence counsel are encouraged to do so as well, if this will not impair the conduct of the defence case.

Movement of documents and exhibits in the courtroom where unavoidable

Where the passing of copies of documents or physical exhibits to others in the courtroom is unavoidable, counsel and self-represented parties must sanitize their hands before and after handling the documents. In addition to hand sanitizer, there will be a supply of gloves in the courtroom for anyone who wishes to use them, as well as instructions for the safe use, removal, and disposal of gloves.

In order to maintain a safe physical distance between counsel, the court clerk, and the witness, documents and exhibits should be placed on the document table before the court clerk and the judge enter the courtroom. Where this is not possible or appropriate, at the time a document or exhibit is to be handed up, counsel or self-represented parties must place it on the document table and then return to counsel table at which point the court clerk will pick it up and hand it to the judge, master, registrar or witness.

VIII. Cleaning and Sanitation

The courtroom will be cleaned after each matter and at the end of each court day, including the witness box, accused box, counsel tables, court clerk desk, the judicial bench, public seating areas, and all other areas of the courtroom where people sit.

A courtroom attendant will wipe down the witness box, including the microphone, horizontal surfaces of the stand, armrests, and handrails after each witness finishes their testimony and at the end of each court day.

In order to facilitate the cleaning of counsel tables, the court requests that counsel who are appearing over multiple days on a particular matter remove their materials from the courtroom each night. If this is not possible or practical (e.g., because of the volume of materials), counsel should pack up their materials into boxes and store them underneath the counsel table.

For more information and details about cleaning protocols, please refer to the Ministry of Attorney General’s information about COVID-19 Court Recovery Operations.

IX. Courtroom Layout

The physical layout of the courtroom, including the position of counsel, the court clerk and the witness may be altered to maintain a safe physical distance between all participants. The ability to move within a particular courtroom, such as by approaching a witness, maybe restricted for physical distancing purposes.

Communication between counsel and parties

Counsel must consider how they intend to confer with co-counsel and their clients in the courtroom while maintaining a safe physical distance.

Civil and family trials

Counsel should give notice at the TMC of an intention to seek leave of the trial judge to communicate with co-counsel or their client by text message or another method that would not normally be acceptable in court.

Criminal trials and extradition hearings

At the commencement of the trial or extradition hearing, defence counsel should be prepared to discuss with the trial judge the means by which they and their accused clients will communicate and confer with each other inside and outside the courtroom. There may be additional considerations where the accused is in custody.

Water

There will be no water jugs available in the courtroom during the court hearing. Counsel, parties and witnesses are permitted in bring their own water in clear plastic bottles that are no larger than 1 litre in volume. Sheriffs will provide water for an in-custody accused person.

Public and media

In order to maintain a safe physical distance in the public gallery between members of the media and public, the number of seats available will be reduced. If counsel or a party is aware of anyone who intends to observe all or part of the court hearing, they should advise those individuals that while the court remains open to the public, seating is limited, and entry into the courtroom will not be permitted once the room capacity is reached.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated 6 November 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

+

COVID-19 Notice No. 42
Date: October 14, 2020
This notice replaces COVID-19 Notice No. 28, Resumption of Further Court Operations – Chambers Applications

Introduction

Effective June 8, 2020, Chief Justice Hinkson directed that chambers matters estimated for 2 hours or less resume by telephone.

Effective October 14, 2020, Chief Justice Hinkson directs that the Court will begin a gradual roll-out to hear chambers applications using Microsoft Teams (“Teams”), in accordance with the procedures set out in this Notice.

For hearings by Teams, parties are strongly encouraged to use video as set out below. For every Teams hearing, a dial-in conferencing number will also be provided so that parties can participate by phone if they are unable to do so by video or if their video connection fails during the hearing.

Applications in Masters chambers of 2 hours or less scheduled for hearing in Vancouver will begin to be heard by Teams on October 26, 2020.

Until further notice, all applications other than Masters chambers of 2 hours or less in Vancouver will proceed by telephone. Hearing of lengthy chambers applications and applications in Judges chambers and in locations other than Vancouver by Teams will be announced at a later date. Parties are encouraged to check the Court’s website regularly for more information.

The Chief Justice has also ordered that until the provincial state of emergency expires or is cancelled, certain requirements in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules are modified to facilitate the process in this Notice. See the Court’s order dated June 5, 2020, found here.

Effective July 13, 2020, as described in Part I of this notice, certain requirements were reinstated. See the Court’s order dated July 13, 2020, found here.

While the Court is taking all steps necessary to allow for chambers applications to proceed, the Court cannot guarantee that all applications will proceed as scheduled. The Province is still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts taken to contain it. The Court will continue to be guided by public health recommendations, and further adjustments to Court processes may be required. The Court appreciates willingness on the part of parties to expect and accommodate changes to scheduled proceedings.

Further information and directions will be provided when available.

I. MAKING A CHAMBERS APPLICATION

Parties must bring and respond to applications in accordance with the Supreme Court Civil Rules or the Supreme Court Family Rules, as applicable, subject to the modifications described below.

A. Modifications to Notice of Application and Application Response

The applicant must file a notice of application in Form 32 for a civil matter or in Form F31 for a family matter.

If the respondent wishes to respond, the respondent must file an application response in Form 33 for a civil matter and Form F32 for a family matter.

Applicants and respondents must modify their respective forms as follows:

  • The applicant must identify the place of the hearing and indicate that the hearing is either by telephone (for all locations listed in Appendix A) or by Teams (for Masters chambers of 2 hours or less in Vancouver). The respondent must include the same information in their response.
  • Applicants and respondents must include an email address and telephone number. The registry will contact them to provide either:
    1. a) telephone conferencing information, or
    2. b) a link by email to connect by Teams, including alternate dial-in conferencing numbers to be used by any party that is unable to use video or that encounters problems with the video connection during the hearing.

Parties must file and serve the modified notice of application, modified application response, and other application materials (i.e., every affidavit and other document that is to be referred to at the hearing and that has not already been filed and served in the proceeding) in accordance with the Supreme Court Civil Rules or the Supreme Court Family Rules, as applicable.

Effective July 13, 2020, in-person registry services resumed at all Supreme Court registries in British Columbia. For information about in-person registry services and other methods of filing see Part I of COVID-19 Notice No. 34. Parties are strongly encouraged to e-file through Court Services Online.

B. Application Record

The process for providing an application record to the registry is modified as follows:

  • The application record must be prepared in accordance with Rules 8-1(15) and 8-1(16) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules and Rule 10-6(14) of the Supreme Court Family Rules, except parties may include copies of case law and other authorities that they will rely on at the hearing (in other words, Rule 8-1(15)(d)(ii) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules and Rule 10-6(14)(d)(ii) of the Supreme Court Family Rules do not apply).
  • The application record must have an external cover page as required by Administrative Notice 14, and must include the contact information (email preferred) for all parties. If the registry is unable to contact the parties to send the link to connect by Teams and alternate dial-in numbers, the matter may not proceed as scheduled.
  • If parties submit a draft order in the application record, a backing sheet is required and it must include a mailing address.

Applicants must provide application records to the registry, and serve application record indexes on each respondent, in accordance with the timelines set out in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules.

Application records will not be returned to the parties after the hearing (in other words, Rule 8-1(19) and (20) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules and Rule 10-6(17) and (18) of the Supreme Court Family Rules do not apply). Application record contents will be securely destroyed following the hearing. If the hearing is adjourned, the registry will hold the application record for 10 business days. If a requisition resetting the adjourned application is not filed within that time period, the contents of the application record will be securely destroyed.

If an application record is not provided to the registry within the time stipulated in this Notice, the application will be struck from the chambers list or the court list. Parties are not permitted to file a requisition for late filing of their application record. The applicant may file a requisition to reset their hearing date.

II. THE CHAMBERS HEARING

Parties will be held to the time estimates provided. There may be cost consequences for parties who exceed their time estimates.

A. Telephone:

Parties will check in with the court clerk the morning of the hearing, and remain in the telephone conference until their matter is called and heard. The following processes will apply:

1. Confirming the scheduled hearing date and time

  • At least one day before the hearing date, the registry will send the parties a hearing confirmation email with instructions about how to join the telephone conference and the time that the parties must check in with the court clerk.

2. Attending chambers via phone

  • Parties will be required to check in with the court clerk when they join the telephone conference and should refer to the instructions provided in the hearing confirmation email.
  • The check-in time will begin at 9:00 am, unless the hearing confirmation email provides otherwise.
  • Parties are expected to stay on the line with a muted connection until their matter is called.
  • The Policy on Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms (the “Policy”) applies to applications heard by telephone, and parties must not record telephone proceedings except in accordance with the Policy.

B. Teams:

Parties will log onto Teams with video using the link provided, or if they are unable to do so, dial in using the conferencing numbers provided, to check in with the court clerk the morning of the hearing. Parties should remain connected until their matter is called and heard. Parties must ensure that their microphone or phone connection is muted and that their camera (if applicable) is off until their matter is called and heard. General instructions on using Teams for hearings are available here

The following processes will apply:

1. Confirming the scheduled hearing date and time 

  • At least one day before the hearing date, the registry will send the parties a hearing confirmation email with instructions about how to join the chambers conference using Teams by video and dial-in conferencing numbers, as well as the time that the parties must check in with the court clerk.

2. Attending chambers via Teams

  • Parties will be required to check in with the court clerk when they join the conference using Teams, whether by video or using the dial-in conferencing number, and should refer to the instructions provided in the hearing confirmation email. The check-in period will begin at 9:00 am, unless the hearing confirmation email provides otherwise.
  • Parties are expected to stay connected with muted microphone or phone connections and cameras off until their matter is called.
  • The Policy on Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms applies to applications heard by Teams and telephone, and parties must not record proceedings except in accordance with the Policy.
  • Parties are expected to dress in business attire.
  • Parties must do their best to minimize disturbances, including with respect to noise.
  • Parties may sit throughout the hearing and are not required to stand while addressing the Court. They are also not required to stand or bow when the presider enters or leaves the hearing.
  • Parties may not eat and may not drink anything except water while the hearing is ongoing.
  • Parties should avoid moving off-screen during the hearing of their matter or should seek the permission of the master or judge to do so.

Questions regarding Teams hearings of Masters chambers applications of 2 hours or less in Vancouver should be directed to:

Scott Kinloch
236-889-9754
Scott.kinloch@gov.bc.ca

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated October 14, 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

 

+

COVID-19 Notice No. 41
Date: September 21, 2020

This notice replaces COVID-19 Notice No. 39 – Civil Jury Selections and Trials.

I. Introduction

Effective March 19, 2020, Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia at all of its locations to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19. As part of the suspension, the Court cancelled civil jury selections and civil jury trials up to and including January 1,2021, everywhere in the province.

II. Civil Jury Trial Rules Suspended until October 4, 2021

Effective September 28, 2020, the Supreme Court Civil Rules have been amended to temporarily suspend civil jury trials, and the operation of related rules, up to and including October 3, 2021. For more details about the changes, please see Order-in-Council No. 517/20, available here.

The new rules provide that civil jury trials scheduled to be heard before October 4, 2021 will automatically proceed by judge alone, regardless of whether a party filed or served a jury notice or paid jury fees.

The new rules also provide that, unless the Court otherwise orders, a party must not apply for an adjournment of a trial because the party may want to require that the trial be heard by the Court with a jury.

Civil jury trials will resume on October 4, 2021. The Court will provide further direction closer to that date.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated September 21, 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

+

COVID-19 Notice No. 34
Date: revised August 7, 2020

Highlighted changes:

  • Part IV respecting suspension of limitation periods in provincial enactments and laws has been updated.
  • COVID-19 Telephone Conference Hearings, which were established for civil and family matters that had been scheduled to be heard between March 19 and May 29, were not urgent or essential, and met certain other criteria (as per COVID-19 Notice No. 13), are no longer available. The Court will continue to hear other matters by telephone, including Judicial Case Conferences, Chambers applications, Trial Management Conferences, Case Planning Conferences, and Registrar’s hearings.
  • Information about civil jury selections and civil jury trials has been removed, as this is now dealt with in COVID-19 Notice No. 39.

Effective July 13, 2020, this notice replaces the following notices:

  • COVID-19 Notice No. 1 – Changes to Courtroom Procedures for In-Person Court Appearances
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 8 – Notice of Suspension of Regular Court Operations, revised April 16, 2020
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 13 – Expansion of Civil and Family Matters – Telephone Conference Hearings
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 15 – Suspension of Regular Court Operations – Insolvency Matters
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 25 – Resumption of Further Court Operations

Effective July 13, 2020, this notices modifies the following notices:

  • COVID-19 Notice No. 14 – Applications by Written Submission
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 28 – Resumption of Further Court Operations – Chambers Applications

Introduction

Effective March 19, 2020 and until further notice, the Honourable Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

The Court has gradually resumed some regular operations, including trials, chambers applications and other hearings and conferences, many of which proceed remotely. While the Court has expanded the scope of its in-person operations, counsel, parties, litigants and members of the public are discouraged from attending courthouses unless their personal attendance is necessary or the Court so directs. This will help minimize the overall number of people in courthouses.

Effective July 13, 2020, in-person registry services will resume at all Supreme Court registries in British Columbia (see Part I for details). In addition, the interim processes that the Court established for: (i) requesting a hearing of an urgent or essential matter, and (ii) scheduling a COVID-19 Telephone Conference Hearing for matters that are not urgent or essential and meet certain other criteria will no longer be available (see Part II for details).

Information about in-person registry services and changes to the Court’s processes are set out below.

I. REGISTRY SERVICES

All Supreme Court registries will be open for in-person services on July 13, 2020. As of that date, parties may file materials at the registry.

While in-person filing is available, parties are strongly encouraged to use e-filing, or one of the other methods set out below:

  • E-filing using Court Services Online. Court Service Online will allow e-filing through the use of a Basic BCeID account. More information can be found here;
  • Fax Filing at a registry designated as a fax filing registry by Supreme Court Civil Rule 23-2 or Supreme Court Family Rule 22-3. See Appendix A for a list of fax filing registries and the fax numbers; and
  • Mailing to any Supreme Court registry. Contact information for all Supreme Court registries is available here.

Anyone attending at the courthouse must review the directions in COVID-19 Notice No. 27 – In Court Measures During the Pandemic prior to arrival.

I. REQUESTS FOR URGENT OR ESSENTIAL HEARINGS AND COVID-19 TELEPHONE CONFERENCE HEARINGS ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE​

The Court established the Request for Urgent Hearing process for civil and family matters (COVID-19 Notice No. 8) and insolvency matters (COVID-19 Notice No. 15) to facilitate access to the Court while registries were not providing in-person services.

Effective July 13, 2020, the Request for Urgent Hearing process for civil, family and insolvency matters will no longer be available. Parties who have emergency applications should follow the processes set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 28 – Chambers Applications and the Supreme Court Civil Rules or the Supreme Court Family Rules, and:

The Court established the COVID-19 Telephone Conference Hearing process for civil and family matters that had been scheduled to be heard between March 19 and May 29, were not urgent or essential, and met certain other criteria (COVID-19 Notice No. 13). In light of the Court’s expanded operations, effective July 13, 2020, the Telephone Conference Hearing process for civil and family matters that was set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 13 will no longer be available.

The Court will continue to hear other matters by telephone, including Judicial Case Conferences, Chambers applications, Trial Management Conferences, Case Planning Conferences, and Registrar’s hearings.

II. OTHER COVID-19 PROCESSES ARE STILL AVAILABLE

During the suspension of the Court’s regular operations, the Court established interim processes to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to hear matters by telephone and written submissions. A list of the Court’s current processes and notices is available here.

Effective July 13, 2020, the following COVID-19 processes are modified as set out below:

A. COVID-19 Notice No. 14 - Applications by Written Submissions

For family law matters, parties are no longer automatically relieved of the requirement to attend a Judicial Case Conference (JCC) before making an application by written submissions. Instead, Rule 7-1(2) of the Supreme Court Family Rules applies, meaning a party must not make an application by written submissions until a JCC has been conducted. Exceptions to this rule and the process by which a party can apply to be relieved of this requirement are set out under Rules 7-1(3) to 7-1(6) of the Supreme Court Family Rules.

The court will continue to hear JCCs by telephone, unless the court otherwise directs. The process for setting a JCC is set out in Part IV of this notice.

B. COVID-19 Notice No. 28 – Resumption of Further Court Operations - Chambers Applications

Timelines for Delivering Application Record to Registry

For chambers applications, applicants are no longer required to provide the application record to the registry no later than 4 p.m. on the business day that is two full business days before the date set for hearing. Instead, the usual timeframes in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules apply, meaning applicants must submit the application record to the registry where the hearing is to take place no later than 4 p.m. on the business day that is one full business day before the date set for hearing.

Timelines for Serving Application Record Index on Respondents

Applicants are no longer required to serve an application record index on each respondent no later than 4 p.m. on the business day that is two full business days before the date set for hearing. Instead, the usual timeframes in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules apply, meaning applicants must serve a copy of the application record index on each respondent no later than 4 p.m. on the business day that is one full business day before the date set for hearing.

III. CIVIL AND FAMILY MATTERS

A. Trials

All civil and family trials scheduled to begin on or after June 8, 2020 have resumed unless the Court otherwise directs. The resumption of civil and family trials may be subject to change as a result of limitations on available facilities or public health recommendations.

B. Jury Selections and Jury Trials

All civil jury selections and jury trials are cancelled up to and including September 7, 2020, everywhere in the province.

For civil matters where a jury notice has been filed and served, if all parties consent to proceeding by judge alone, they may seek such an order at a Trial Management Conference (TMC) or a Judicial Management Conference (JMC). A party wishing to strike a jury notice may bring an application through the Application by Written Submissions process set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 14 or through a chambers application as set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 28. A party opposing an application to strike can apply for an adjournment of the trial. For more information, see COVID-19 Notice No. 26.

Effective July 13, 2020, the collection of jury fees will resume. However, as resumption of jury selections must precede resumption of jury trials, jury trials may be further delayed.

C. Chambers Hearings and Conferences

As of June 1, 2020, the following matters resumed by telephone:

  • JCCs for family matters;
  • Chambers matters already scheduled for hearing on the trial list; and
  • TMCs, as set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 26

JCCs that are already scheduled to occur on or after June 1, 2020 will resume by telephone. Parties may also schedule a JCC, which will occur by telephone, by contacting Supreme Court Scheduling by phone at the registry where the file is located and filing and serving all required materials pursuant to Rule 7-1 of the Supreme Court Family Rules. Registry contact information can be found online here.

Parties may apply to have a JCC heard by remote video conferencing pursuant to COVID-19 Notice No. 35 – Remote Video Conferencing.

As of June 5, 2020, chambers applications estimated to take two hours or less resumed by telephone in accordance with COVID-19 Notice No. 28 – Chambers Applications.

As of June 30, 2020, registrar hearings resumed in accordance with COVID-19 Notice No. 32 – Registrar Hearings.

As the Court continues with its plan for expanding court operations, further information will be provided as it becomes available.

IV. LIMITATION PERIODS AND FILING DEADLINES

Filing and service timelines under the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules were suspended on March 18, 2020 and began to run again on May 29, 2020. With the exception of any document associated with a Request for Urgent Hearing, Telephone Conference Hearing, or Application by Written Submissions, documents filed between March 19, 2020 and May 28, 2020 are deemed to have been filed on May 29, 2020. A party unable to meet a filing deadline for reasons related to COVID-19 may apply for an order amending the timeline for filing.

The suspension of regular operations and adjournment of trials scheduled on or before May 29, 2020 necessarily suspended the usual timelines under the Supreme Court Civil and Family Rules for holding TMCs, for filing Trial Briefs, and for filing Trial Certificates, as these timelines all count back from the scheduled trial date. Trials scheduled for hearing following May 29, 2020 are also affected. See COVID-19 Notice No. 26 regarding the resumption of TMCs.

Provincial Suspension of Limitation Periods Remains in Place

Effective April 15, 2020, Ministerial Order No. M098 suspended limitation periods and mandatory time periods for the commencement of a civil or family proceeding from March 18, 2020 to the date on which the last extension of the declaration of the state of emergency made under section 9 (1) of the Emergency Program Act expires or is cancelled, except for those limitations and time periods established under the Builders Lien Act and Division 5 of Part 5 of the Strata Property Act.

Effective March 26, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General suspended limitation periods and mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or laws for the commencement of a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal. See Ministerial Order No. M086 (Limitations Order No. 1).

Effective April 15, 2020, Ministerial Order No. MO86 was repealed and replaced by Ministerial Order No. MO98, which suspends limitation periods and mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or laws for the commencement of a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal except those established under the Builders Lien Act and Division 5 of Part 5 of the Strata Property Act (Limitations Order No. 2).

On July 8, 2020, the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 8 (“Act”). The Act came into force on July 10, 2020. The Act continues the suspension of mandatory limitation periods and other mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or laws for commencing a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal as set out in Limitations Order No. 1 and Limitations Order No. 2.

On August 4, 2020, the Lieutenant Governor made the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation, B.C. Reg. 199/2020 (“Regulation”) and amended the Act. The Regulation and the Act provide that the suspension of mandatory limitation periods and any other mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or lawsfor commencing a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal in the Supreme Court of British Columbia will end 90 days after the date the state of emergency expires or is cancelled.

Once this suspension is lifted, more directions will be provided by the Court.

V. IN-PERSON HEARINGS

The Supreme Court initially instituted the Centralized Registry model, scheduling hearings at only seven locations throughout the province, to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Court will no longer be using the Centralized Registry model. However, the Court is not yet able to return to full in-person hearing and trial capacity at all of its registries. In order to continue to protect the safety and health of the members of the public, limit the number of in-person appearances and trials, limit the transmission of the virus and maintain access to justice as an essential service for the public, many hearings such as chambers applications, TMCs, JCCs and some registrar hearings will continue to be heard by telephone conference or, where available, videoconference, unless the Court otherwise directs.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated August 7, 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

Appendix A – Fax Filing Registries

Chilliwack (604) 795-8397

Cranbrook (250) 426-1498

Dawson Creek (250) 784-2218

Kamloops (250) 828-4345

Kelowna (250) 979-6768

Nelson (250) 354-6133

Penticton (250) 492-1290

Prince George (250) 614-7923

Rossland (250) 362-7321

Salmon Arm (250) 833-7401

Smithers (250) 847-7344

Terrace (250) 638-2143

Vernon (250) 549-5461

Williams Lake (250) 398-4264

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COVID-19 Notice No.40
Date: revised July 27, 2020

This notice replaces the following notice:

  • COVID-19 Notice No. 26 – Civil and Family Matters – Resumption of Trial Management Conferences and Trials, dated June 3, 2020

Introduction

On March 19, 2020, the Honourable Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Effective May 13, 2020, Chief Justice Hinkson directed that Trial Management Conferences (“TMCs”) would proceed by telephone, unless the Court otherwise ordered. The Chief Justice also ordered that certain requirements in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules regarding the timing of certain TMCs and the timeframes for filing and serving trial briefs (civil matters), trial records, and trial certificates were amended for TMCs and trials scheduled to begin on or before July 24, 2020.

Accordingly, effective July 27, 2020, the amendment of certain requirements in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules regarding the timing of certain TMCs and the time frames for filing and serving trial briefs, trial records, and trial certificates no longer apply. Parties must schedule TMCs and file and serve trial briefs, trial records and trial certificates pursuant to the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules and Administrative Notice #13. The Court’s direction that TMCs proceed by telephone unless the Court otherwise orders continues to apply.

While the Court is taking all steps necessary to prepare to hear trials, the Court cannot guarantee that matters will proceed as scheduled. The Court’s ability to hear trials will continue to be subject to developments that may occur during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The process for scheduling TMCs and rebooking trials that have been adjourned due to the Court’s suspension of regular operations is set out below.

I. THE PURPOSE OF A TMC

Given the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19, the Court recognizes that it is important in these times to hold TMCs to assess whether parties are ready or able to proceed to trial and how the trial may be conducted efficiently within the requirements of public health orders and guidelines. Properly completed trial briefs will assist the Court in making orders setting out a plan for how the trial should be conducted.

Counsel and self-represented parties at a TMC are expected to confirm that the trial or hearing can proceed in accordance with the precautions and restrictions set out in COVID-19 Notice In Court Measures During the Pandemic and to advise the presiding judge or master of any problems these measures may present. Any such problems should be addressed in advance of the trial or hearing. Counsel and self-represented parties will also need to address any additional concerns that may apply in the specific circumstances of their trial or hearing.

If counsel or self-represented parties are unprepared, the presiding judge or master may adjourn the trial and award costs against the unprepared party or litigant.

It is important to note, however, that holding a TMC does not guarantee that a civil or family trial will proceed on the scheduled date.

II. HOW TO SCHEDULE A TMC

All TMCs must be scheduled to be heard by telephone by following the steps below.

To schedule a TMC a party (“Scheduling Party”) must:

  • Make efforts to contact the opposing party to determine a mutually agreeable date for the TMC, and then book the TMC online. If the Scheduling Party is unable to book the TMC online, they should contact Supreme Court Scheduling by phone at the registry where the trial is to be held.
    • For a family matter, the date of the TMC must be scheduled to take place at least 28 days before the scheduled trial date in accordance with Rule 14-3(1) of the Supreme Court Family Rules.
    • For a civil matter, the date of the TMC must take place at least 28 days and not more than 120 days before the scheduled trial date pursuant to Rule 12-2(1) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules.
  • Once a TMC has been booked, the Scheduling Party must file and promptly serve on all other parties a requisition in Form F17 with the following information:
    • the date and time of the TMC;
    • the venue at which the TMC was booked but also state that theTMC will be heard by telephone; and
    • the phone numbers of all parties by which they may be contacted for the hearing of the TMC.
  • Trial briefs, trial records, and trial certificates must be filed and served in accordance with the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules and Administrative Notice #13.

Parties are encouraged to e-file their documents through Court Services Online. See COVID-19 Notice Expansion of Court Operations – In-Person Registry Services for more information on methods of filing.

III. HOW TO REBOOK A TRIAL

This part of the Notice applies to civil and family trials that were adjourned due to the Court’s suspension of regular operations, and that have not already been rebooked. In order to reschedule adjourned trial dates, partiesmust do one of the following: rebook trial dates following the steps in Part A below OR schedule a Judicial Management Conference (“JMC”) to be heard by telephone following the steps in Part B below.

A. Rebooking Trial Dates

Parties should contact Supreme Court Scheduling by phone at the registry where the trial was to be held to rebook the trial based on availability as follows:

  • Before rebooking trial dates, the party seeking to rebook (“Rebooking Party”) must make efforts to contact all other parties to determine mutually agreeable dates for the trial.
  • When the Rebooking Party calls to schedule the trial,they must advise Supreme Court Scheduling of their file number, that it is a “COVID displaced trial”, the registry location and whether a judge is seized of or assigned to the matter.
  • Once trial dates have been scheduled, the Rebooking Party must file and serve promptly on all other parties a notice of trial pursuant to Rule 12-1of the Supreme Court Civil Rules and Rule 14-2 of the Supreme Court Family Rules.

Registry contact information can be found online here.

Parties are encouraged to e-file their notice of trial through Court Services Online. See COVID-19 Notice Expansion of Court Operations – In-Person Registry Services for more information on methods of filing.

B. Scheduling a JMC

To schedule a JMC to be heard by telephone the party seeking a JMC (“Scheduling Party”) must:

  • Make efforts to contact all other parties to determine a mutually agreeable date for the JMC, and then book the JMC online. If the Scheduling Party is unable to book the JMC online, they should contact Supreme Court Scheduling by phone at the registry where the trial was to be held.
  • Once a JMC has been scheduled, the Scheduling Party must file and promptly serve on all other parties a requisition in Form 17 for civil law matters and Form F17 for family law matters at least 7 days before the JMC.The requisition:
    • must note the fact that a JMC has been scheduled, the date and time of the JMC, the venue at which the JMC was booked, that the JMC will be heard by telephone, and the phone numbers for all parties by which they may be contacted for the hearing of the JMC; and
    • may list the documents to support the requisition, such as previously filed trial briefs, trial records and trial certificates, if applicable.

One of the purposes of a JMC is to foster a candid discussion about the management of the case during COVID-19 and options on how to move the matter forward. Examples of what may be discussed include: rebooking trial dates, issues of urgency, narrowing of issues, and alternative dispute resolution options.

Registry contact information can be found online here.

Parties are encouraged to e-file their requisition through Court Services Online. See COVID-19 Notice Expansion of Court Operations – In-Person Registry Services for more information on methods of filing.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated July 27, 2020 at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia